Trump taps Obama Mideast peace envoy for top State Department post
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Trump taps Obama Mideast peace envoy for top State Department post

Nomination of David Hale as under secretary for political affairs comes ahead of expected rollout of Israeli-Palestinian peace plan; administration critics laud move

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Then US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, left, speaks with a US Army soldier during a handover ceremony of US weapons to the Lebanese army at Beirut's port in Lebanon on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Then US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, left, speaks with a US Army soldier during a handover ceremony of US weapons to the Lebanese army at Beirut's port in Lebanon on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump nominated on Tuesday a former senior Middle East peace envoy who served under the Obama administration to take one of the top positions at the State Department.

David Hale, currently the US ambassador to Pakistan, was tapped Tuesday to serve as an under secretary of state for political affairs, the White House said in a statement.

Hale is a career member of the foreign service corps and has held multiple positions in government, including, at different points in time, as US ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan.

From 2009 to 2013, he was a special envoy and deputy special envoy to Middle East peace as Barack Obama attempted to jump-start moribund peace efforts between the Israelis and Palestinians. The period saw the last direct meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the tail end of a 10-month settlement freeze.

US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, right, speaks with US military personnel during a handover ceremony of US weapons to the Lebanese army at Beirut’s port in Lebanon on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

Hale left the post just before fresh peace talks, ushered by then secretary of state John Kerry, kicked off in 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a Peace Conference in Washington DC. September 02, 2010. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

The White House and State Department did not say if Hale would focus on the Mideast peace process in his role as the country’s No. 3 diplomat, but the appointment comes just before the Trump administration is expected to unveil a long-awaited peace plan.

The White House has taken a lead role in peace efforts, and the State Department has had a relatively minor part, with no senior diplomat out of Foggy Bottom assigned to the process.

A State Department official did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night over whether Hale would have any involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Some analysts saw Hale’s nomination Tuesday as a corrective to former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who sought to cut back on diplomatic activity out of Foggy Bottom and steered clear of the trenchant Mideast conflict.

Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, was actively involved in choosing Hale for the position, sources told The National, and he encouraged Trump to nominate the experienced foreign service official, who is steeped in multiple portfolios in the Middle East and South Asia.

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro attends at a fare-well session at the Knesset ahead of his departure from the role on January 17, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Trump’s decision to elevate Hale was lauded by frequent Trump critics, including former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who worked with Hale in the Obama administration.

“He is a consummate professional,” Shapiro tweeted. “Excellent choice.”

Former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller also praised the nomination.

“Sanity,wisdom and good judgement at State,” he said.

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