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Says posting is 'a dream come true'

New US ambassador lands in Israel, heads straight to quarantine at home in Jerusalem

Thomas Nides assumes post after nearly 10 months with no American envoy, as disagreements with Israel remain on Jerusalem consulate and Iran

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

New US envoy to Israel Tom Nides (R) bangs elbows with Gil Haskel, Foreign Ministry Chief of Protocol (David Azagury/ US Embassy Jerusalem)
New US envoy to Israel Tom Nides (R) bangs elbows with Gil Haskel, Foreign Ministry Chief of Protocol (David Azagury/ US Embassy Jerusalem)

New US ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides landed at Ben Gurion Airport Monday morning, then headed to his new home in Jerusalem for three days of quarantine — in line with new regulations to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

In a video recorded hours after he landed, Nides spoke about his first trip to Israel as a 15-year-old, calling it “a dream come true.”

“The bonds between our two countries, as President [Joe] Biden has said, are unbreakable,” Nides continued. “There is no greater privilege than what I have been asked to do, to represent the United States of America to the State of Israel.”

Nides was received at the airport by the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Jonathan Shrier, and Gil Haskel, the Foreign Ministry’s chief of protocol.

Shrier signed a transfer of authority certificate to the new envoy.

Nides, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and longtime Democratic party operative, was confirmed earlier this month after Senate Republicans temporarily held up the nomination process.

The confirmation ended a nearly 10-month period in which the US had no ambassador to Israel, after David Friedman stepped down in January. Former Jerusalem consul general Michael Ratney has been running the US Embassy in Jerusalem as interim chargé d’affaires since June.

US President Joe Biden formally tapped Nides for the position in June, and while the 60-year-old wasn’t seen as a controversial candidate, the nomination — along with dozens of others — became another victim of Washington’s partisan politics, with Democrats accusing Republicans of prolonging the process.

New US envoy to Israel Tom Nides (L) gets tested for COVID-19 after he lands in Israel (David Azagury/ US Embassy Jerusalem)

Nides assumes the post as disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington threaten to put stress on a publicly warm relationship between the Biden and Bennett governments. Israel and the US are at odds over Biden’s plans to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem that focuses on Palestinian affairs. The consulate was closed by Trump when he moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, placing the Palestinian affairs unit under the embassy.

Indirect talks between the US and Iran over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal are set to begin on Monday as well. Israeli leaders have publicly expressed their opposition to a return to the deal, while Biden has been clear about his desire to find a way back to the agreement.

Nides is a former deputy secretary of state for management and resources, who most recently served as managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley.

US President Biden’s Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 22, 2021. (Screen capture/Senate Foreign Relations Committee)

While he doesn’t have the same Israel-focused background as some of the previous US ambassadors, Nides is no stranger to the issue either. As deputy secretary of state, Nides built effective working relationships with several Israeli officials and played a key role in the Obama administration’s approval of an extension on loan guarantees for Israel worth billions of dollars.

He also helped carry out Obama’s policy against congressional efforts to limit US support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Nides was born in 1961 to a Jewish family in Duluth, Minnesota. His father, Arnold Nides, was the president of Temple Israel and the Duluth Jewish Federation, as well as the founder of finance company Nides Finance.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report. 

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