JERUSALEM, Israel – President Joe Biden has nominated former Treasury Secretary Jacob (Jack) Lew to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Lew served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as Treasury Secretary and White House chief of staff and also served in the Clinton administration.
Lew will encounter Senate Republican opposition in his confirmation hearings, as many have strong reservations about his role in promoting the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, among many other issues.
The Lew nomination comes at a critical time in U.S.-Israel relations, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still awaits an invitation from the Biden White House after more than 8 months in office, and faces a precarious situation for Israel involving Iran’s many proxies – Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The sensitive issue of U.S.-Israel-Saudi negotiations is also likely to be affected by the Lew nomination.
If confirmed, Lew is likely to steer the Biden administration’s Middle East policies more in the direction of the Obama era, which many Israelis do not recall fondly.
Still, the Netanyahu coalition is welcoming the nomination. Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called him “a true friend of Israel,” and added, “We look forward to working with him in the spirit of cooperation and an alliance based on shared values.”
Eight House Republican lawmakers sent a notice outlining their concerns about the nomination, writing, “At a time when we should work on strengthening the US-Israel relationship, this nomination has the potential to strain relations with our strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East.”
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) also opposed the nomination, issuing a statement reading, in part, “In addition to shilling for the terrible Iran deal, Lew promoted a slew of other anti-Israel policies.” Those included his support for U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which labeled Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (including eastern Jerusalem) as “occupied territory;” opposition to the U.S. moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; and “blaming Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the partisan divide regarding israel created by President Obama.”
Senate Republicans have been delaying the approval of White House nominations and may do the same with the Lew nomination.
If confirmed, Lew would replace Ambassador Tom Nides, who left the post in July.