Former Obama Official Confirmed as US Ambassador to Israel – The Senate has approved Jacob Lew as the ambassador to Israel, appointing him to the crucial diplomatic role amid the country’s conflict with Hamas. Lew, who previously served as the Treasury secretary during President Barack Obama’s administration, received confirmation with a 53-43 vote.
Lew has promised to stand side by side with Israel’s leaders as they respond to the militant group’s October 7 attack, telling senators in his confirmation hearing in mid-October that “at this moment, there is no greater mission than to be asked to strengthen the ties between the United States and the state of Israel.” Last month, President Joe Biden selected Jack Lew as the nominee to fill the position that became vacant when Ambassador Tom Nides departed in July.
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Democrats believe that Lew’s extensive government background, including his roles as chief of staff to Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton and as White House budget director under both administrations, makes him the ideal candidate to assume this role during a pivotal moment in the relationship between the two countries. U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said after Lew’s confirmation that the administration is eager for him “to get on the ground and start leading our efforts to support Israel and their fight against Hamas.”
“And also to help us integrate and continue to lead the effort to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.” Republicans criticized Lew for his involvement in the Obama White House during the negotiations of the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015 and other foreign policy decisions. The Iran deal, which was later abandoned by former President Donald Trump, came under scrutiny, especially since Iran is the main sponsor of Hamas.
“This is the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place,” Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said just before the vote. “The last thing we need is somebody who is very contrary to our view about how Iran should be handled.” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin said Lew has won praise from Israeli leaders and has the gravitas to “stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel” as the United States partners with the country.
“There’s to me no question about his qualifications, no question about his presence being welcomed by our Israeli friends, no question about his knowledge and commitment to these issues,” Cardin said. “We could not have a more qualified individual to represent America as our ambassador to Israel.” At the hearing, Lew defended his work in the Obama White House and called Iran an “evil, malign government.”
“I want to be clear — Iran is a threat to regional stability and to Israel’s existence,” Lew said. He also expressed sympathy for the civilians on both sides who have been injured or killed in the fighting. It must end, Lew said, “but it has to end with Israel’s security being guaranteed.” Lew, who is Jewish, said at the hearing that he cannot remember a time in his life “when Israel’s struggle for security was not at the forefront of my mind.”