Senate Confirms New Ambassador To Israel

Last week, the Senate confirmed Jack Lew to serve as the next ambassador to Israel, despite Republican opposition over the former Obama Treasury Secretary’s involvement in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, CBS News reported.

In a 53 to 43 vote, Senate Democrats, along with Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, voted to confirm the former Treasury Secretary whom the president nominated in September.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described Lew’s confirmation as “an extremely important step in our support of Israel.” Schumer said with Israel at war with Hamas, the US ambassadorship to Israel is one of the most “important and timely” confirmations “in a long time.”

The United States had been without an ambassador to Israel since Tom Nides stepped down in July.

Republicans opposed Lew over his involvement in crafting the Iran deal when he was President Obama’s Treasury Secretary. During his confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, Republicans grilled Lew over including sanctions relief as part of the nuclear agreement.

Lew told the senators that Israel has the right to exist and described Iran as a “threat to regional stability.”

When pressed about re-starting talks with Iran, Lew said it wasn’t the appropriate time to negotiate with the country that provides material support to Hamas. He conceded that an agreement to prevent Iran from securing nuclear weapons “would be a good thing” but said now is not the time to pursue it.

Idaho Republican Senator Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had argued that he believed Lew was the “wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place.”

Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-MD), however, said he spoke with Israeli officials who said they were “looking forward” to working with Lew.

Senator Rand Paul was the only Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee to vote in favor of advancing Lew’s nomination to the full Senate. He said in a statement before the vote that when he met personally with Lew, he found him “to be a thoughtful individual” who would do his best to represent US interests in Israel.