Former US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was nominated Tuesday to be the next American ambassador to Israel amid Republican protest, partially given his role in crafting the 2015 Iran deal.
Lew was also White House Chief of Staff from 2012 to 2013 and a member of former US president Bill Clinton’s cabinet from 1998 to 2001.
[Lew is] “an experienced former senior Administration official whose pro-Israeli credentials can’t be questioned here or in Israel,”Aaron David Miller, former US Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator
“In both administrations, he was a principal at the National Security Council” and was a Special Assistant to president Clinton, the White House said.
Lew, an observant Jew from New York, replaces Tom Nides of Minnesota who left the post in July.
Lew is “a true friend of Israel,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, adding that, “We look forward to working with him in the spirit of cooperation and an alliance based on shared values.”
His background lends additional US diplomatic weight at a time when Washington is hoping to broker a deal with Riyadh that would also include the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Analyst David Makovsky said Lew was the highest-ranking US official ever appointed to that ambassador role.This is the first time in 75 years of US-Israeli ties that a former cabinet secretary and White House Chief of Staff has been named to the envoy post, said Makovsky who is a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy and a former Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief.
American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch lauded Lew’s appointment explaining that his “distinguished record of public service makes him an exceptional choice.”
Deutch said he looked forward to working with Lew to strengthen Israel’s place in the world, deepen the Abraham Accords, and expand ties between Israel and the Arab world.”
Lew must be confirmed by the Senate before he can take up his role, a move that could be lengthy as Republican lawmakers have sought to delay final action on Biden’s nominees.
Aaron David Miller, a former US Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator said that the Biden administration which was looking “to avoid a messy fight in Congress has come up with the best possible candidate to avoid one.
Lew is “an experienced former senior Administration official whose pro-Israeli credentials can’t be questioned here or in Israel,” Miller said.
Eight Republican Representatives, however, have appealed to US President Joe Biden to reconsider Lew’s appointment.
“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 lawmakers wrote.
They noted that Lew was one of the “chief architects” of the now defunct 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA,) otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.
“This deal, which failed to constrain Iran’s nuclear production, was one of the greatest US foreign policy disasters of the 21st century,” they wrote.
Lew, the lawmakers said, had supported the 2016 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which said that Israeli settlement activity was illegal under international and affirmed a two-state resolution to the conflict at the pre-1967 lines.
Lew's previous comments on Netanyahu
The lawmakers took issue in particular with comments that Lew has made about Netanyahu in the past explaining that this cast doubt on his ability to work cooperatively with Netanyahu in his new role.
Those who signed the letter were: Claudia Tenney Elise Stefanik of New York, Max Miller of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Carol Miller of Virginian Kat Cammack of Florida and Mark Green of Tennessee.