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Focus on Israel Highlights Concerns with Ambassador Nominee

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After the horrific attack on the Israeli people on October 7, the Senate will come back from its recess next week with a crucial agenda item: confirm the next ambassador to Israel.

The high-stakes post has been empty since July when Ambassador Tom Nides left. In September, President Joe Biden nominated former Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for the position, but last weekend’s brutal attack on Israel has senators pushing for a prompt confirmation. 

On the surface, Lew seems like a natural pick for the job. He’s a Washington veteran, serving as Treasury Secretary under President Obama. Prior to that, he was White House Chief of Staff and Director of the Office of Management and Budget for both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Lew is also an orthodox Jew with extensive connections within the Jewish community. 

However, Lew’s resume contains several notable red flags. Chief among them is that Lew was a key player in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, which Concerned Women for America (CWA) has opposed every step of the way. At a 2015 conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post, Lew promised the Jewish community that the Obama administration’s goal with the JCPOA was to “guarantee that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”

The JCPOA was supposed to do that by placing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear development program. In exchange for their compliance with those limitations, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror (who is believed to have also played a role in the most recent attack against Israel) received $150 million of sanctions relief. The deal also included sunset provisions on those restrictions, allowing Iran to return to normal operations within five years. Israel strongly opposed the deal at the time, as did CWA, saying that it was too lenient. Saudi Arabia also criticized it, claiming they’d be most affected if Iran ever acquired nuclear weapons. 

Although President Donald Trump removed the U.S. from the deal in 2018, citing that the restrictions failed to adequately curtail Iran’s ambitions, the Biden Administration has been shamefully trying to revive it. Elevating Lew, one of the deal’s early defenders, is likely a key part of those negotiations. This is something that Senators must probe the nominee for in the upcoming hearing.

Lew also advised President Obama not to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution was a radically anti-Israel statement that claimed all of East Jerusalem, which contains the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, Judea/Samaria, and the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery as occupied territory. It condemned any Israeli settlements there and in other Palestinian controlled areas, saying that those communities have “no legal validity and [constitute] a flagrant violation of international law.” Lew argued that the UNSC 2334 was in line with American policy, but Congress overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan H. Res. 11, condemning the UNSC 2334. It is concerning that his views are so out of step with the American people’s representatives from both sides of the aisle.

Lew’s tenure as Treasury Secretary oversaw several egregious missteps regarding Middle East policy, such as the Obama administration’s transfer of $1.7 billion in cash to the Iranian regime in 2017 and the release of $221 million to the Palestinian Authority, a group known to incentivize terrorist activities through its “pay to slay” program. All this while Lew ludicrously claimed that “no administration has done more for Israel’s security than [the Obama administration].” 

While the atrocities committed in Israel this past week highlight the urgency to fill this post, it’s important that the U.S. have an ambassador who can strengthen, and not degrade, ties with America’s most important ally in the Middle East. The hearing is scheduled for October 18, and CWA will be watching this nomination process closely.