Netanyahu taps diplomat Gold for key foreign role

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday named Mr Dore Gold, a seasoned diplomat seen as reluctant to make concessions to the Palestinians, as his director general of foreign affairs.

Mr Gold was an adviser to Mr Netanyahu after he first took office in 1996. He served as ambassador to the UN in 1997-1999 and also advised former premier Ariel Sharon. He was involved in various talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu enlisted his services again as a foreign affairs consultant in January 2014 while he was head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think-tank.

"He is considered to have relatively hawkish views on the Palestinian issue and has never publicly voiced support for the two-state solution," the Haaretz daily wrote at the time.

US-born Mr Gold says Iran poses an "existential threat" to Israel and wants to dominate the region.

Following his March election victory, Mr Netanyahu kept the foreign minister post for himself. He appointed Tzipi Hotovely, an ultra-Orthodox from his Likud party's far right, as deputy foreign minister in a coalition government that includes fervent supporters of settlements and opponents of Palestinian statehood.

In her first major speech on Thursday, Ms Hotovely declared that all territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which includes the West Bank, belongs to Israel.

Netanyahu's appointment of Gold was seen as an attempt to keep a rein on Ms Hotovely, Haaretz said.