A former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt will be the first holder of the S. Daniel Abraham Chair in Middle East policy studies, the Wilson School announced Wednesday.
Daniel C. Kurtzer will join the faculty in January after having spent the past eight years working abroad as a diplomat.
Dean of the Wilson School Anne-Marie Slaughter '80 praised Kurtzer's accomplishments and predicted a successful career for him at the University.
"Ambassador Kurtzer is the perfect first holder of the chair," Slaughter said in an email. "I expect that he will quickly become an active and visible figure on campus."
Kurtzer did his undergraduate work at Yeshiva University in New York and received a doctorate and two masters degrees from Columbia. After working at Yeshiva and at the State Department, he served as the American ambassador to Egypt from 1997 to 2001, and then as ambassador to Israel until this year.
In a September interview with The New York Times, Kurtzer spoke of the challenges of serving as a liaison for the United States and Israel.
"I think this is the most complicated, complex and politically challenging relationship of any we have in the world," Kurtzer said.
Issues pertinent to the Middle East have "been at the nexus of the most serious foreign-policy issues of the last 25 years."
The same article concluded that "by most accounts Mr. Kurtzer ... did his job well," citing his efforts to foster peace between Israel and its neighbors.
Several pro-Israel organizations in America, however, have criticized Kurtzer's attitude towards Israeli counterterrorism efforts.
A news release issued by the Zionist Organization of America said Kurtzer's Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia called certain incidents of Israeli aggression "catalysts to interstate violence" and suggested that Israel bore responsibility for "the radicalization of the Palestinians to violence."
Slaughter nonetheless emphasized the work Kurtzer has done to foster a cooperative attitude in pursuing peace in the Middle East.
"He has extraordinary contacts and experience throughout the Middle East and has been at the heart of efforts trying to bring peace to Israel and to create a viable Palestinian state," Slaughter said.
S. Daniel Abraham, who endowed the chair, made Forbes Magazine's list of the 400 wealthiest Americans in 2000 after selling Slim-Fast Foods, the company he founded. He was also the largest donor to the Democratic Party that year with a gift of $1.5 million.
Since selling his company, Abraham has become a noted philanthropist with a particular interest in achieving a peaceful relationship between Israel and its neighbors.
He started the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program at Yeshiva University, which gives undergraduate students the chance to study at colleges in Israel.
According to Slaughter, Abraham endowed the chair "to help us work with other parts of Princeton and partners in Washington and abroad to give Middle East issues the intellectual prominence they deserve on campus, and to make an active contribution to addressing a wide range of policy studies."