US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday named retired Marine Gen. James Jones as special envoy for Middle East security, focusing on Palestinian and Israeli security issues.
"General Jones is the person we need to take up this vital mission," said Rice, with Jones at her side.
Jones, a general schooled in diplomacy who was NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe until 2006, takes on the job following the US-hosted Middle East conference in Annapolis on Tuesday that revived Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
According to Israeli and Western officials, the general will be tasked with judging if the Palestinians are cracking down on militants and whether Israel is freezing settlement activity, as called for under the Road Map peace plan.
The New York Times said Wednesday that Gen. Jones will report to Rice as part of what the administration hopes will be an intensified negotiating track.
Still, some analysts were skeptical. "There is, I think, considerable doubt remaining about whether the administration is prepared to take on the heavy lifting ... To make this work," said Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution.