The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took a major step forward on Wednesday by advancing the nomination of Jack Lew to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing for Lew, as most committee Republicans rejected his nomination due to his support for the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran.
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The absence of a formal ambassador to Israel has become a glaring issue, especially in light of the recent Hamas terror attack that tragically claimed the lives of over 1,400 people, including more than 30 American citizens. The Democrats on the committee were thrilled to move Lew’s nomination forward, highlighting his integral role in crafting and lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran during his time as treasury secretary in the Obama administration.
President Biden nominated Lew in September after Ambassador Thomas R. Nides announced his resignation. The nomination will now head to the full Senate for what is expected to be a party-line confirmation vote in the Democrat majority chamber later this week.
Committee Chairman Ben Cardin expressed his support for Lew, emphasizing the need for an experienced ambassador on the ground working closely with Israeli partners during the ongoing conflict. The committee also made progress on several other diplomatic nominations, including Herro Mustafa Garg for U.S. ambassador to Egypt.
However, Lew’s nomination has garnered the most attention, particularly from committee Republicans who grilled him during a hearing last week. Sen. Marco Rubio accused Lew of lying to lawmakers about the nature of the sanctions relief provided to Iran under the nuclear deal. This accusation, along with concerns about Lew’s support for Israel, caused Rubio and other Republicans to vote against advancing the nomination.
Rubio emphasized that America’s next ambassador to Israel must unequivocally stand with the Middle East ally in the face of terrorist attacks and the Iranian threat. Despite Lew’s promises to support Israel and work towards peace in the region, there are lingering doubts among some committee members about his ability to fulfill those commitments.
The confirmation hearing was dominated by discussions about the situation in the Middle East, with Lew expressing hesitation about further negotiations with Iran at this time. Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the committee, voiced his concerns about Lew’s ability to support Israel in light of the Iranian threat.
In the end, the committee’s vote to advance Lew’s nomination signifies progress, but it also highlights the partisan divide on the issue. There are lingering doubts among Republicans, and it remains to be seen whether Lew will secure enough support in the full Senate to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.