The Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Jacob J. Lew, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, took a heated turn on Wednesday as Republicans accused him of being an Iranian sympathizer. However, Lew vehemently rejected these accusations and defended his actions during his time as Treasury secretary under the Obama administration.
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Lew assured lawmakers that his “reputation as someone who stands with Israel is beyond question.” He stressed the threat that Iran poses to regional stability and the existence of Israel. If confirmed, he pledged to uphold President Biden’s commitment to deny Iran a nuclear weapon and warned against anyone trying to take advantage of the current crisis.
The opening minutes of the hearing were disrupted by three pro-Palestinian protesters, who were swiftly removed by Capitol Police. They called for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and condemned civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip caused by Israeli airstrikes.
With no current ambassador to Israel, Senate Democrats are pushing to confirm Lew in the coming weeks. However, Republican opposition could potentially cause delays. Republicans are scrutinizing Lew for what they see as a pattern of appeasement towards Iran during his time under Obama. They accuse him of misleading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and failing to take strong action against Iran with sanctions.
Lew defended his actions, including his decision to abstain from a 2016 United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. He explained that he was following the direction of the Obama White House to prevent a harsher condemnation of Israel. Despite his arguments, it seems that Lew did not manage to sway any Republican senators on the committee, and it is unlikely that he will receive their support for his confirmation.
If confirmed, Lew is expected to advance with only Democratic support, just as he did when he was confirmed as Treasury secretary in 2013. However, even that confirmation faced opposition from Republican senators who felt that the Obama administration had not done enough to pressure Iran. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, who had supported Lew’s confirmation in 2013, stated that he will not support him this time because they need someone who will take a tough stance on Iran and enforce sanctions without waivers.
It remains to be seen how Lew’s confirmation process will play out, but it is clear that Republicans will continue to challenge his suitability for the role of U.S. ambassador to Israel.