Senate confirms Jack Lew as Israeli ambassador

By | October 31, 2023

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, allowing him to assume a crucial role in the country’s fight against Hamas.

Senators voted 53-43, with two Republicans joining each Democrat present.

“As Israel defends itself against Hamas, this ambassadorial nomination is as important and timely as any Senate-confirmed nomination in a long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y. ) after the vote. “Mr. Lew is the ideal man for the post of Ambassador to Israel. He is a capable public servant, a fierce ally of Israel and enjoying a broad base of trust and respect, and he is a man decent and humane.

“When my colleagues and I met with the Israeli government, we promised to send them an ambassador as soon as possible. And today, the Senate delivered on that promise.

“But it was clear when we went there that Israel needed a U.S. ambassador, especially right now,” Schumer added.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week advanced Lew’s nomination by a vote of 12 to 9. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only Republican on the panel to support it. Republicans have voiced their opposition to Lew, particularly highlighting his participation in the Obama administration’s work on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“He has a really difficult job to do in this environment,” Senator John Thune (SD), the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said Tuesday. “We need an ambassador there.”

Thomas Nides, the former US ambassador to Israel, left his post in July.

Lew’s expected confirmation comes at a critical time as Israel escalates its war against Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli army reportedly fought Hamas gunmen through their network of tunnels on Tuesday.

It also comes at a crucial time on Capitol Hill, as members of the House and Senate fight over how to fund America’s ally.

The House is expected to vote later this week on a bill that would greenlight $14 billion in aid to Israel, coupled with IRS cuts passed last year as part of the Tax Relief Act. Inflation Reduction (IRA).

Senate leaders indicated Monday that Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) proposal would be dead on arrival in the Senate because of budget cuts.

“It’s a fail. It’s a poison pill,” Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) told reporters.

Schumer told the Senate he was “deeply troubled” by the bill, which he said was “woefully inadequate” due to the lack of funding from Ukraine and cuts to the IRA.

“The House Republican Party’s bill is woefully inadequate and bears the imprint of the hard right everywhere: it conditions aid to Israel, which has just faced the worst terrorist attack in its history, on poison pills that reward wealthy tax evaders,” Schumer said. “In short, it makes it much more difficult to provide aid to Israel. »

The Biden administration’s request for additional programming includes $61 billion to bolster Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia, $14 billion for Israel and $14 billion to strengthen border security. Thune told reporters that a “significant” number of Republican senators view efforts to finance Israel, Ukraine, the border and Taiwan as interconnected, while leaders continue to push for these elements to be linked, contrary to the calls of a growing number of conservatives. .

“We want a broader package,” Thune said. “There are a significant number of Republicans in the Senate who believe that these are all connected and that these are vital national security interests and priorities of the United States.”

“This kind of axis of evil that has developed between Russia, China and Iran… is something that needs to be addressed in its entirety, and so there should be a broader set of measures,” he said. added Thune. “There is broad and deep bipartisan support for Israel and other issues – not so much. It gets a little more complicated when you start adding other elements to it.

Updated at 3:28 p.m.

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