May 2, 2009 / 6:08 PM / 11 years ago

Israel picks U.S. immigrant for new Washington envoy

JERUSALEM, May 2 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen a U.S.-born expert on Middle Eastern affairs, Michael Oren, as the Jewish state's new ambassador to Washington, Israeli political sources said on Saturday.

Netanyahu's right-leaning cabinet was expected to confirm Oren, 54, senior fellow at a conservative Jerusalem think-tank, ahead of Netanyahu's planned talks with President Barack Obama in Washington later this month, the sources said.

Oren, an immigrant raised in New Jersey and a frequent commentator on Israeli affairs who has appeared before Congress, would replace Sallai Meridor, who served under Israel's former prime minister, centrist Ehud Olmert.

The new ambassador was chosen as Israel's President Shimon Peres headed to Washington for talks with Obama and to participate in a meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Though Peres's job is largely ceremonial, some Israeli officials hope the Nobel peace prize laureate can help ease tensions with the Obama administration, which seeks to revive talks for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Netanyahu, elected in February on a pledge to adopt a tougher stance in peace talks, has stopped short of committing to a goal of achieving Palestinian statehood in Gaza or the occupied West Bank. (Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Richard Balmforth) (For blogs and links on Israeli and Palestinian news, go to blogs.reuters.com/axismundi)



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