Jacob Lew confirmed as US ambassador to Israel | ET REALITY

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The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jacob J. Lew as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, filling a position the Biden administration says is critical to efforts to help the country in its bid to overthrow Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Gaza and avoid additional challenges from other Iran-linked groups in the region.

The 53-43 vote reflected a deep partisan divide over whether Lew, who was Treasury secretary during the Obama administration, was the right man for the job. Only two Republicans, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky, joined all Democrats in supporting Lew’s confirmation.

Lew’s confirmation comes as Congress races to respond to the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and the resulting war in Gaza with a comprehensive package of emergency military and humanitarian assistance. President Biden has requested a $105 billion national security spending package for war efforts in Israel and Ukraine, as well as threats in the Indo-Pacific and along the US-Mexico border.

The task has been complicated by partisan divisions between the Democratic-led Senate, which is working to fulfill Biden’s request, and the Republican-led House of Representatives. The new president, Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, chose to introduce an Israel-only security assistance bill and package it with a provision to roll back an IRS enforcement initiative that was part of Biden’s deficit reduction measure. .

Although Biden nominated Lew before the war broke out, the urgency around his confirmation has increased as hostilities between Israel and Gaza have intensified. But while Republicans recognized the need to install a Senate-confirmed ambassador, they came out against Lew’s candidacy, arguing that his work to promote and carry out a multinational nuclear pact with Iran during the Obama years had made him an unreliable interlocutor with Israel.

Republicans and Israeli officials vehemently opposed the Iran deal, which eased certain sanctions in exchange for Tehran giving up its nuclear ambitions, when it was struck in 2015. President Donald J. Trump later withdrew the United States from the pact.

“A vote for him is a vote to subvert, not strengthen, our ally in this time of need,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said of Lew on the Senate floor.

“He lacks the courage or the will to really defend Israel when it really matters and things are bad, like they are today,” Cotton added.

Democrats have consistently defended Lew, insisting that his conduct as Treasury secretary was beyond reproach and that his support for Israel is undeniable.

“Mr. Lew has a strong, long and proven record as a strong public servant and a fierce ally of Israel,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said on the floor Tuesday. He also stated that “the need to confirm the Mr. Lew is clear and irrefutable: Israel is in crisis, the United States needs to support it, and a more urgent and obvious step would be to ensure that we have an ambassador in place.”

Republicans argued that Lew acted beyond his authority to try to curry favor with Iran in the international banking system by relying on banks to do business with Tehran. They also accused him of trying to funnel money into Iran’s coffers and of working to undermine Israel’s interests in the United Nations.

“The underlying problem here is our policy and our policies toward Iran,” said Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. He argued that, given Iran’s key role as a financier of Hamas and other groups in the region that challenge Israel, “the last thing we need is someone who is very contrary to our vision of how Iran should be handled.”

Democrats said the Israelis themselves supported Lew.

“They are very eager to have a confirmed US ambassador in Jerusalem to help with the challenges they now face as a result of the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, and they are very anxious that Jack Como Lew was that ambassador, they told us directly. ”said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland and chairman of the foreign relations panel.

He added that Mr. Lew’s experience working on prisoner releases could prove critical as the United States seeks to free American and Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

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