US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides leaves later this week to return to Washington. In the spirit of hakarat hatov, expressing gratitude, it is appropriate to thank him for his two years of service here in Israel and for the sacrifices he had to make to accept US President Joe Biden’s request to assume the ambassador’s role here.
As not everyone may be aware, it was not possible for his wife, Virginia, who is CNN’s senior vice-president for news gathering for the networks’ US operations, nor his two children, Taylor and Max, to leave the US and be in Israel during this period. Nevertheless, he chose to come here anyway and sacrificed his time with the family to answer the call of his country. A patriot in every sense of the word to be sure.
He deserves our thanks for representing the interests of the United States well, even though, at times, we may have disagreed with his position on certain issues. Yet, we also need to remember that every country’s ambassador implements the foreign policy decisions of the country he or she represents.
Any disagreement between us notwithstanding, the country involved, in this case the United States, has a right to make its decisions based on its interpretations of its own best interests, as do we as well, of course. So, while it would be wonderful if such decisions were always in sync with our expectations, that won’t be the case every time. In such instances, while it represents a difference of opinion, it does not represent a breakdown of shared values or common concerns.
Thomas Nides was unique in his role as ambassador
What made Nides special, however, was that during his tenure here he made himself approachable and encouraged people to communicate with him.
For example, the first time I met Ambassador Nides was when he appeared at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) last year. After his presentation he gave all of us his personal cell number with the request that it be used only when necessary. I do not recall any other US ambassador ever doing that in the past. On the two occasions that I used that number I received a response in minutes and always with respect and an implied desire to act.
Yes, on certain occasions he misspoke on issues relating to our interface with the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, but when such was called to his attention, he apologized for his error. This was a sea change from some of his predecessors who generally had great difficulty admitting that they might have misunderstood or misinterpreted things here.
In addition, Israel benefited from Nides’s understanding of economic theory, given his long experience in banking. A former COO of Morgan Stanley with additional experience at Credit Suisse and Burson-Marstellar, he had a good sense of what drives a nation’s economic growth. Local politicians saw him as an experienced resource on questions related to this topic and he was more than willing to provide advice and share his experiences.
As such, he has earned our gratitude and respect. This chapter of his life is closing and a new one is about to open. We can only hope that the next chapter will be more rewarding and more exciting than any one of those in the past and for him to know that Israel’s welcome mat is always ready for his return.
Ambassador Nides, thank you.
The writer has lived in Jerusalem for 39 years, is CEO of Atid EDI Ltd., an international business development consultancy, board member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, chair of the American State Offices Association in Israel, former board chair of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel and chairperson of Jerusalem’s Congregation Ohel Nechama.