Trump chooses Obama-era Mideast envoy for key State Department role

The envoy who oversaw Israel’s 10-month settlement freeze in 2009-2010 was nominated by Trump as undersecretary of state for political affairs.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

David Hale, American ambassador to Pakistan since 2015, was nominated Tuesday night by President Donald Trump to become undersecretary of state for political affairs. He was reportedly handpicked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fill the State Department’s third-highest position.

Hale is a career diplomat who has served in many embassies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well having multi-year stints as US ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan. He is best known in Israel as special envoy for the Middle East peace process under then-President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013.

One of the more controversial events for Israelis that he oversaw at the end of his tenure was the 10-month settlement freeze instated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Obama’s insistence as a measure to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiation table – which was unsuccessful.

Hale is no fan of Hamas. as demonstrated by a quote in AFP during the height of the Arab Spring riots in 2011.

“The Palestinians are no more immune to the currents of change and demand for democratization, reform and freedom than any of the other people in the region,” he said. “I think you will see those same forces affect Hamas because clearly their leadership is not characterized by any of those words.”

Hale apparently is admired by old Democratic Middle East hands critical of Trump’s recent Middle East moves, such as withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“He is a consummate professional,” former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro tweeted. “Excellent choice.”

Former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller echoed the praise on the social media platform, saying the nomination would bring “sanity, wisdom and good judgement [sic] at State.”

Hale has received a number of senior State Department awards over the years, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service. His nomination awaits the approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, although with a Republican majority it seems to be an automatic win for the president.