CHAMPAIGN – A Champaign native with extensive Middle East experience could be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Several online political sites identified Daniel Shapiro as likely to assume the post soon, but no official source has confirmed that.
The website Politico reported Tuesday that the president plans to appoint Shapiro, who serves as senior director for Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council, to the ambassadorship.
The Jewish Daily Forward reported the next day an "administration source said he could not confirm or deny the reported nomination – which meanwhile has been widely accepted around Washington as a fait accompli. Shapiro would replace Ambassador James B. Cunningham, whose term ends in June."
The offices of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, said they had received no word of the appointment. Both added that they might not be informed in advance of such news.
Shapiro's mother and father, who live in Champaign, said it was premature to say their 41-year-old son had the job.
But Elizabeth Klein Shapiro, a novelist who is married to University of Illinois professor emeritus Michael Shapiro, spoke proudly of her son's accomplishments, from playing basketball at University Laboratory High School to speaking Hebrew and Arabic to earning an advanced degree at Harvard University.
Her son went to Westview Elementary School, then to Edison Middle school, then Uni.
"He did everything in school," including sports, Klein Shapiro said.
"What he did after Uni was somewhat unusual. He took a year off and went to Israel for half that year after taking classes at the UI," she said.
He then entered Washington University, spending his sophomore year in Israel, before transferring to Brandeis University.
"He's had a very interesting career," she said, that has included working with Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine who was appointed by President Obama as special envoy for Middle East peace.
The Washington Post reported that Shapiro worked on Obama's election campaign for two years. He also worked on the National Security Council for President Clinton.
His mother said Shapiro has three talented siblings as well. His sister Carolyn, a law professor, clerked for a Supreme Court justice. Brother Jonathan is chief technical officer for a computer firm, and sister Naomi is director of a program that helps send young adults to Israel.