Obama Taps Jew for Chief of Staff

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israelis had mixed reactions to President-elect Barak Obama's offer to Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel, 49, to serve as his chief of staff.

Some Israelis believe it's a positive indication of Obama's pro-Israel stance, while others are less enthusiastic.

"Emanuel is pro-Israel and would not be willing to consider accepting the job unless he was convinced that president-elect Obama is pro-Israel," an aide of the congressman told YNet news.

Educated in Jewish day schools, Emanuel spoke Hebrew as a child with his father at home and spent time in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) during the Gulf War.

"The sharp-tongued, sharp-elbowed, keenly intelligent veteran of the Clinton White House is said to have ambitions to some day be Speaker of the House, but he also has a keen sense of duty," ABC News reported.

The Democratic congressman, son of an Israeli-born doctor and an American Jewish mother, served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1988 and as finance director during former President Bill Clinton's campaign.

In the Clinton White House, Emanuel served as a senior advisor to the president during the Oslo negotiations, helping to orchestrate the famous handshake on the White House lawn between the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

"It was an emotional moment for him," public relations consultant Richard Mintz was quoted on the israel national news Web site. "He would like nothing more than to participate in another peace agreement signing," he said.

Many in Israel believe the first intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) was a result of the failed Oslo Accords, while the second intifada began two months after the Camp David Summit, also hosted by former President Clinton.

Sources: ABC News, YNet News, Israel National News

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