Ambassador to Israel: Who is Dan Shapiro?
Monday, August 22, 2011
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro is a long-time foreign policy professional with extensive experience dealing with issues pertaining to the Middle East. As an observant and active member of the Jewish community, Shapiro’s role has been to reassure American Jews that Obama will be a friend to their interests, including those related to Israel. He was confirmed by the Senate on May 26, 2011, sworn in on July 8, and arrived in Israel on July 21.
Shapiro was born in 1969 in Champaign, Illinois, one of four children of novelist Elizabeth Klein Shapiro and University of Illinois English professor Michael Shapiro. He graduated from the University Laboratory High School of Urbana, Illinois, in 1986. He then took a year off, taking Hebrew language classes at the University of Illinois, and then visiting Israel for half a year. He attended Washington University, spending his sophomore year in Israel, and transferred to Brandeis University, where in 1991 he earned a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, with an additional concentration in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. In 1993, he earned an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies, with a focus on modern Middle Eastern history, from Harvard University. He has also studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
From 1993 to 1995 Shapiro served as a professional staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East under Chairman Lee Hamilton. Moving to the Senate in 1995, he was a legislative assistant and senior foreign policy adviser to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California until 1999. At that time, he moved to the executive branch, and for two years sat on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, as director of legislative affairs and as a Congressional liaison for National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.
After the 2000 elections, Shapiro returned to the Senate, serving from 2001 to 2007 as legislative advisor and then deputy chief of staff (primarily on foreign policy issues) for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. In 2007, Shapiro jumped ship to the private sector, working from 2007 until 2008 as vice president of the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm Timmons & Company, where he lobbied on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the interests of large oil companies. He also lobbied for Freddie Mac, Anheuser-Busch, Chrysler, VISA, Dun & Bradstreet. Cox Enterprises, the American Medical Association, the American Council of Life Insurers and the University of Miami (among others).
Also in 2007, Shapiro began serving as an advisor to then-Senator Barack Obama on Middle East and Jewish community issues, and assisted as a strategist and fundraiser. He accompanied Obama on his July 2008 trip to Israel, which was followed in August 2008 by Obama’s appointment of him as senior policy adviser and Jewish Outreach coordinator for his 2008 presidential campaign.
In January 2009, Obama appointed Shapiro Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council. From that time until September 2010, when negotiations collapsed, Shapiro visited Israel at least once a month and accompanied U.S. special envoy for Middle East Peace George J. Mitchell on all his trips to the region, taking a central role in talks regarding the failed settlement building freeze and the strengthening of military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. He has maintained close relations with Benyamin Netanyahu, in spite of the tensions between the Israeli prime minister and President Obama.
Shapiro is married to Julie Fisher of Duluth, Minnesota, whom he met during college when both were serving as summer camp counselors. They have three daughters, Liat, Merav, and Shira. He speaks Hebrew and some Arabic. According to the OpenSecrets website, Shapiro has contributed $17,500 to Democratic candidates and causes since 2004, including $2,300 to the Obama presidential campaign in 2008.
- Matt Bewig
Champaign Native Confirmed as Ambassador to Israel (by Katherine Skiba, Chicago Tribune)
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