Amid the ever-rising tensions in the Middle East, the U.S. Senate is gearing up to confirm President Joe Biden’s choice for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. The nominee, former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This decision comes at a time when Israel faces threats from both Hamas and Hezbollah.
President Biden put forth Mr. Lew’s name for this crucial role on September 5. If the Senate gives its nod, Lew will step into the shoes of Tom Nides, whose term as ambassador concluded on July 21. However, Republican voices have risen unison, expressing deep concerns over this nomination.
Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) took to social media platforms to voice his apprehension, highlighting Lew’s pivotal role in the controversial Iran Nuclear Deal during the Obama administration. He emphasized, “Iran, being the primary backer of Hamas, makes Jack Lew an unsuitable choice for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) pointed out that Lew was instrumental in the negotiations for the Iran deal, which he termed “dangerously flawed.” He stressed that the repercussions of this deal are evident today, with Iran, now flush with funds, fueling unrest in Israel. Hagerty firmly stated that Lew must be held accountable for the shortcomings of the Obama-Biden Middle East strategy during his upcoming Senate hearing.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was even more forthright in his criticism during a Fox News interview. Labeling Lew as an “Iran sympathizer,” he expressed that such a person should not represent the U.S. in Israel. Cotton accused Lew of aiding Iran in bypassing American sanctions and misleading Congress.
During his tenure as the Treasury Secretary under President Obama, Lew was a staunch defender of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. This deal saw Iran receiving billions in sanctions relief for curbing its nuclear ambitions. Lew, in a conference organized by The Jerusalem Post, had emphasized the deal’s importance, stating that it was the most effective diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
However, the current scenario in Israel is grim. Since the onset of Hamas’s attacks on October 7, the death toll has surpassed 4,000, with at least 30 U.S. citizens among the casualties. Israel has retaliated with air strikes on Gaza, controlled by Hamas. It has also targeted Hezbollah and IRGC positions to the north. Israel remains resolute in its commitment to neutralize Hamas.
Given the volatile situation, some Senate Democrats have advocated for a swift confirmation of Lew as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, emphasized the urgency, stating that Israel desperately needs a Senate-confirmed U.S. ambassador. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) have also supported Lew’s quick confirmation.
As the Middle East grapples with unrest and Israel stands firm against its adversaries, the decision to confirm Jack Lew as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel remains contentious. The Republican camp remains skeptical, while Democrats push for a swift decision. The coming days will reveal the Senate’s final stance on this crucial matter.