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Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said Emanuel was seen as a tough, hard nosed and highly partisan political operative known for his fiery temper with strong links to Israel.

He is the son of a Jerusalem-born doctor who was active in an underground Zionist organisation that fought the British in Palestine before the founding of Israel.

As an adviser to former president Clinton, Emanuel was responsible for helping to orchestrate the 1993 Oslo peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

Emanuel who, like Obama, is from Chicago, helped mastermind the Democrats' capture of the House of Representatives from the Republicans two years ago.