President Biden will nominate former treasury secretary Jack Lew to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, the White House announced Tuesday.
Lew, 68, is a lawyer who has had an extensive career in Washington policy. He served as treasury secretary during President Barack Obama’s second term and before that was Obama’s chief of staff. Lew also served as director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama and Clinton administrations.
Lew is an Orthodox Jew who has kept details about his personal life relatively private. He was reported last month to be Biden’s front-runner for the Israel post, which prompted praise from some key officials — including one of Israel’s former ambassadors to the United States, Michael Oren, who called Lew “a mensch in every sense of the word.”
However, several Republicans have already pushed back on Lew’s reported imminent nomination. Eight GOP lawmakers wrote a letter last week to Biden urging him to reconsider, citing Lew’s role in crafting the Iran nuclear deal and previous comments by him criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If Lew’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, he would step into the ambassador role at a critical time for U.S.-Israel relations. Thomas Nides, the previous U.S. ambassador to Israel, left his post this summer.
Tensions between Biden and Netanyahu spilled into public view this year during Netanyahu’s efforts to change the Israeli judicial system. In July, after what was perceived as an extended delay, Biden invited Netanyahu to meet in the United States before the end of the year, although details of the meeting remain unclear.
The Biden administration has emphasized that the United States remains steadfastly committed to Israel’s security, even amid criticism from prominent Democrats about human rights issues in Israel.
In a statement Tuesday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) praised Lew, a native New Yorker, as “a tested leader, skilled negotiator and distinguished coalition builder.”
“Jack Lew is an extraordinarily accomplished and seasoned public servant whose decades of dedication to our nation at the highest levels of government and breadth of experience make him uniquely capable of serving as U.S. Ambassador to Israel at this critically important time,” Jeffries stated.