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New Mideast Ambassadors Face Senate

President Bush’s nominees to become ambassador to Israel and Egypt faced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

The President made clear the importance and sensitivities of the region in bypassing political patronage and nominating two career diplomats.

Richard H. Jones, who upon confirmation will succeed Daniel Kurtzer in Israel, has served in a number of posts in Arab countries and is fluent in Arabic. He told the Committee that he will not hesitate to speak out against terror attacks and strongly praised what he called Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s “courageous leadership.”

Jones did, however, reaffirm that the Bush administration disagrees with ‘Abbas’s policy of “co-opting terrorists” into his security forces rather than “challenging them head-on.”

Francis Ricciardone told the committee that the administration will work to push Egypt toward “world standards of democratic governance.” He called for elections in which candidates from “law-abiding parties” are free to campaign, have access to media and the right of assembly free from intimidation.