shapiro - Natasha Mozgovaya - February 22 2011
Dan Shapiro. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmed Dan Shapiro's appointment as U.S. ambassador to Israel late last week.

During U.S. President Barack Obama's speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention last week, Obama turned to Shapiro, who was sitting in the front row next to Ambassador Michael Oren, and said he knew Shapiro "was going to be an outstanding ambassador to Israel."

"Dan has always been a close and trusted adviser and friend and I know that he will do a terrific job," Obama added.

David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, also welcomed the appointment. Harris said Shapiro's expertise and knowledge of Israel and the Middle East "along with his previous service as President Barack Obama's deeply trusted advisor on the Middle East make him the perfect person to ascend to this crucial position and represent the United States' interests in Israel."

Harris said Obama's decision to appoint Shapiro was a reflection of "how seriously the president views our relationship with Israel and how committed he is to further strengthening it."

"Supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship should be delighted that the newest ambassador to Israel will have the ear of the president as we enter into a period where a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is needed more than ever before," Harris said.

Shapiro is currently director for the Middle East and North Africa of the National Security Council. He took up the post after acting as Obama's adviser on the Middle East and Jewish community relations during Obama's presidential campaign.

Shapiro held frequent conference calls with leaders in the American Jewish community during perceived periods of crisis between Jerusalem and Washington.

Shapiro - who is from Champaign, Ill. - spent a year in Israel as part of his Middle Eastern and Jewish studies major. He speaks Hebrew. He holds his B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.A. from Harvard.

Shapiro accompanied George Mitchell, former special envoy for Middle East peace, to the region and also visited Syria with Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Shapiro is a member of the Conservative congregation Adas Israel in Washington.