Lipkin-Shahak's would-be host seems to be in his corner. "From Washington, he looks good," says a State Department official. As military chief he gained considerable experience working with the Americans. The U.S. likes the idea of resuming land-for-peace negotiations between Israel and Syria at the ambassadorial level in Washington. "Lipkin-Shahak knows the issues, has the credibility and knows how to keep a secret," says the State Department source. Plus, if talks between the two nations take place in Washington, the U.S. remains fully in the picture and positioned to claim a foreign policy coup, should negotiations bear fruit.
A few months ago, Israel's former army chief, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, was putting himself forward as a future prime minister. Though his candidacy quickly flopped, the retired general may be up for a lesser but still desirable job: ambassador to the U.S. The Center Party that Lipkin-Shahak represents in the newly elected parliament is almost certain to be a governing partner with the party of prime minister-elect Ehud Barak, who preceded Lipkin-Shahak as military chief of staff. And the two generals were once close, though their relationship tensed over Lipkin-Shahak's initial decision to run against Barak, instead of beside him, in the Labor party.