Senate panel okays Biden’s pick for Israel envoy, with final vote likely next week

Jacob Lew, formerly Obama’s treasury secretary, says ‘there is no greater mission’ than advancing ties with Israel, as it vows to eliminate Hamas following October 7 massacre

Jacob Lew, former treasury secretary under US president Barack Obama, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to examine his nomination as US ambassador to Israel, in Washington, October 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
Jacob Lew, former treasury secretary under US president Barack Obama, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to examine his nomination as US ambassador to Israel, in Washington, October 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved Jacob Lew to be ambassador to Israel, moving quickly to get him in place during the country’s new war with Hamas, following the Gaza terror group’s October 7 massacre of Israelis.

The panel voted 12-9 on Wednesday to move Lew’s nomination to the Senate floor for a final vote, which could come as soon as next week. All Republicans on the panel except Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul voted against him.

Lew, a former treasury secretary and budget director under former US president Barack Obama, told the committee at his confirmation vote last week that “there is no greater mission” at this moment than to help strengthen ties between the United States and Israel.

He said he would ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself in the war, which erupted after some 2,500 terrorists rampaged through southern communities, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing some 222 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

Lew said he would also address the humanitarian crisis facing civilians in Gaza after Israeli military strikes.

The Israeli army says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and has vowed to eliminate the terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

Lew was nominated by US President Joe Biden last month after Tom Nides left as ambassador in July. Democrats say Lew’s wealth of government experience makes him the right person to fill the post at a critical moment in the two countries’ relationship.

Republicans have criticized Lew for his role in the Obama White House when it negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015, among other foreign policy moves. The deal with Iran — the chief sponsor of Hamas — was later scuttled by former US president Donald Trump.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the committee, told Lew at the hearing that he had concerns that Lew would not be tough enough on Iran.

Lew defended his work in the Obama White House and called Iran an “evil, malign government.”

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