WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama nominated Daniel Shapiro to be the United States ambassador to Israel, signaling an intensification of U.S. involvement in the region.

Obama made the formal announcement on Wednesday; it had been rumored for weeks.

Shapiro, currently the top National Security Council official handling Israel and the region, would replace James Cunningham.

Shapiro, 41, is active in the Washington D.C. Jewish community and he would be the first Jewish ambassador to Israel since Daniel Kurtzer, who served from 2001 to 2005.

More significantly, he would be the first non-foreign service officer ambassador since Martin Indyk, who preceded Kurtzer.

Such appointees, from the circle of a president’s close advisers, usually signal an intensification of U.S. involvement in the region.

Shapiro, a point man for the Jewish vote for the Obama campaign during the 2008 election, has been deeply involved in the recent U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. He speaks Hebrew.