US Ambassador Thomas Nides lands in Israel

Nides will not be living in the old US consulate. The US Embassy has found a home to rent for him.

 The new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides arrives in Ben Gurion airport, November 29, 2021.   (photo credit: DAVID AZAGURY/US EMBASSY JERUSALEM)
The new US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides arrives in Ben Gurion airport, November 29, 2021.
(photo credit: DAVID AZAGURY/US EMBASSY JERUSALEM)

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides landed in Israel early Monday morning, ending 10 months in which Washington did not have an ambassador in Jerusalem.

“I will be making my home in Jerusalem and soon be traveling all over this country to connect with Israelis’ rich history and culture,” Nides stated in a video tweeted to coincide with his arrival.

Nides will not be staying at the 19th-century building owned by the US on Agron Street in Jerusalem, in which his predecessor David Friedman officially resided in the last months of his ambassadorship.

The US Embassy has instead found a home to rent for him in the capital, a diplomatic source said.

Friedman oversaw the sale – for NIS 230,353,536 ($67.6 million) – of the stately Herzliya Pituach home American ambassadors had lived in since the 1960s, as part of the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

The US Consulate on Agron Street (credit: Wikimedia Commons)The US Consulate on Agron Street (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The structure on Agron Street had previously been a consulate serving Palestinians, which was folded into the Jerusalem embassy as the Palestinian Affairs unit. The Biden administration seeks to reverse that decision and reopen a consulate for the Palestinians, while continuing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

However, a diplomatic source said the fact that a different home was being rented for Nides is not related to those plans, because the Agron Street building was not appropriate for an ambassador’s residence and was always intended as a temporary solution.

Nides expressed excitement about his new post on Twitter.

“After my first trip to Israel, I wrote in my local newspaper that ‘the moment I put my feet on the ground, I had a feeling which I will never forget,’” Nides wrote. “Landing today in Israel to be US Ambassador is another moment I’ll never forget.”

“My first trip here was when I was 15 years old, as a little Jewish kid from Duluth, Minnesota,” he said in a video featuring photos from that visit. “It was a dream come true. I slept in the Sinai Desert, climbed Masada at 3 a.m. and worked on a kibbutz.”

In the video, Nides said he was honored that US President Joe Biden chose him to be ambassador to Israel.

“I aspire to represent the diversity of Americans, whose background and beliefs may differ, but are united in the core values of freedom, democracy and opportunity,” he said. “The same rings true for Israel – that’s why the bonds between our two countries, as President Biden has said, are unbreakable.”

Nides expressed hope that his professional experience will serve him well as ambassador. He was managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley when he accepted the ambassadorship. Previously, he served as US deputy secretary of state for management and resources during the Obama administration, and in numerous government and banking roles before that.

In keeping with the latest COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Nides immediately went into a three-day quarantine upon his arrival.

“I’ll spend my first couple days in quarantine, following the latest COVID guidelines,” he tweeted. “My thanks to the dedicated medical staff at Ben-Gurion [Airport] working to keep us all safe. I’m eagerly awaiting a negative test result so I can begin to meet many of you soon!”

The US Senate confirmed Nides’ appointment in the beginning of November.

During his hearing in the Senate, the aspiring ambassador said he would support the Abraham Accords and oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

When it comes to Iran, Nides said that “upholding Israel’s security serves America’s national security interests and ensures that we will always have a strong, reliable and secure partner.”

Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.