Incoming US Ambassador Nides presents credentials to Pres. Herzog

Incoming US Ambassador Tom Nides arrived in Israel with his son Max and a large embassy delegation.

 President Isaac Herzog receives the credentials of US Ambassador Thomas Nides on December 5, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Isaac Herzog receives the credentials of US Ambassador Thomas Nides on December 5, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

After just over 10 months without a US ambassador in Israel, the void was filled on Sunday when Thomas Nides, the 21st US ambassador to Israel, and the fourth of the Jewish faith, presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog.

Nides came with his son Max and a large embassy delegation.

“Without a doubt, the greatest challenge Israel and the United States face is the common threat posed by Iran,” Herzog said in his welcoming address.

“We are closely following the international community’s recent negotiations with Iran. Israel will welcome a comprehensive, diplomatic solution which permanently solves the Iranian nuclear threat.

“In the case of a failure to achieve such a solution, Israel is keeping all options on the table, and it must be said that if the international community does not take a vigorous stance on this issue, Israel will do so. Israel will protect itself.”

 President Isaac Herzog receives the credentials of US Ambassador Thomas Nides on December 5, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) President Isaac Herzog receives the credentials of US Ambassador Thomas Nides on December 5, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In his response, Nides declared that the US was committed to Iran never developing a nuclear weapon.

Later, he wrote in the visitors’ book, “The defense of this beautiful country is my most important priority.”

Aware that the ambassador’s personal relations with Israel extend back to the time when he was 15 years old, Herzog made no secret of his pleasure in welcoming him, not as a school boy but as the key representative of the United States in Israel.

“It is a true privilege and honor for me, as president of the State of Israel, to open my home to you, the newly appointed ambassador of the United States of America, Ambassador Tom Nides,” said Herzog.

“The People of Israel welcome you with open arms and an open heart. For us, this is a celebration of a shared vision and common values: liberty and equality, freedom, human rights and friendship with our closest ally.”

Herzog also spoke of the close engagement and involvement of his family with more than 14 American presidents.

His uncle Abba Eban had started the ball rolling with Harry S. Truman, and the president’s older brother, Michael, who is Israel’s ambassador in Washington, last week was among the guests at the White House at the traditional Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony hosted by President Joe Biden.

Herzog, who spent part of his youth in the US, said he had been strongly influenced by “the spirit of the Constitution, by America’s social diversity and by the great tradition of American democracy.”

Just as his brother had been at a Hanukkah ceremony hosted by the president of the US, Herzog invited Nides to join the president of Israel and his wife, Michal, in lighting the eighth Hanukka candle.

Not only did Nides know the blessings off by heart, but he sang “Maoz Tzur” with gusto, his face radiating enjoyment as he sang.

Well before the candle-lighting ceremony, Herzog told Nides that he had a surprise for him: Elizabeth Elie Aloni, who had been Nides Hebrew teacher in Duluth, Minnesota, was in the hall at Herzog’s invitation.

“Now I know who is to blame for my bad Hebrew,” quipped Nides.

Aloni, who is a personal friend of Herzog’s, after reading some months ago that Nides had been tapped to serve as US ambassador to Israel, got in touch with the president to tell him that she had taught Nides when he was a bar mitzvah boy. Herzog furnished her with Nides’s email address, she got in touch, he replied, and all the rest makes for a nice human-interest story.

Herzog conveyed to Nides his deep gratitude to President Joe Biden, “for his tireless support and his uncompromising commitment to the ironclad relations between Israel and the United States.”

Referencing that relationship, Herzog added, “It should always be above partisan politics, enjoying the support of all administrations.”

Herzog also mentioned the Abraham Accords, which he said were a strategic and regional game-changer. He said he had discussed this two days earlier in a telephone conversation with United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. In concluding, Herzog said he was looking forward to his visit to the United States in the near future to meet with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other members of the administration.

Nides said he was honored to have been asked by Biden to represent his country in Israel. He reminisced about his first visit as a 15-year-old, and spoke of how he was committed to work for the security, economy and democracy of both the US and Israel.

Israel’s defense was first and foremost on his agenda, he said, noting that the US supports the replenishing of the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

He also spoke of standing against all efforts to delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of reviving negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and preserving the vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prior to the lighting of the eighth Hanukkah candle, Herzog and Nides, accompanied by their respective teams, held a 45-minute closed-door conversation on Iran and other regional issues. After the candle lighting and the signing of the visitors’ book, Herzog and Nides joked with each other and parted company laughing.