Thomas Nides accepts Biden offer to serve as next US envoy to Israel – source

Former State Dept. official with ties to Blinken and Obama still needs to be confirmed by Senate, though no major opposition expected

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Then-Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides (center) talks to South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (right) in Seoul, South Korea, on February 29, 2012. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, Pool)
Then-Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides (center) talks to South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (right) in Seoul, South Korea, on February 29, 2012. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, Pool)

Former State Department official Thomas Nides has accepted an offer from the Biden administration to serve as the next US ambassador to Israel, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Monday.

The appointment will be announced by the White House in the coming weeks and will then need to be approved by the Senate, but no major opposition is expected, particularly given that Republicans do not have a majority in Congress, the source said, confirming Vox’s reporting on the matter.

While there had been a handful of Democratic lawmakers, including Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jerry Nadler and Senator Bernie Sanders, who had vocalized their support to US President Joe Biden for former Congressman Robert Wexler to get the ambassadorial post, they are now expected to get behind Nides, the source added.

After what was seen as a weeks-long neck-and-neck battle, Wexler was notified on Friday by a Congressional official close to the White House that the position would not be his, all but shoring it up for Nides.

US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, right, and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns testify at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on December 20, 2012. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Biden is slated to send senior diplomat Michael Ratney to Jerusalem next month to serve as the interim head of the US embassy in Jerusalem until the full-time ambassador is confirmed, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Thursday.

Nides had been seen as the initial favorite for the position, but Wexler enjoyed a jolt of support in recent weeks from several Jewish organizations as well as lawmakers who reached out to Biden on the former Florida representative’s behalf.

Nides, for his part, was likely aided by his close ties with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former president Barak Obama.

Nides served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources in the Obama administration along with several other rolls in the State Department before becoming a managing director at Morgan Stanley.

Born in 1961 to a Jewish family in Duluth, Minnesota, Nides is a banking executive and if indeed picked, would bring both government and private-sector experience to the post.

As deputy secretary of state for management and resources, 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).

In 2012, Nides sent a letter to the US Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, arguing against legislation that sought to distinguish between Palestinians displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948 and those refugees who are their descendants, reducing the number of refugees from 5 million to just 30,000 (the Trump administration toyed with similar measures). Nides wrote that the legislation would undermine American ability to act as a peace mediator, “and generate very strong negative reaction from the Palestinians and our allies in the region, particularly Jordan.”

Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren wrote in his book “Ally” that in 2011, Nides had argued passionately against congressional efforts to defund UNESCO after the body admitted Palestine as a member state.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)

“You don’t want to f***ing defund UNESCO. They fucking teach the f***ing Holocaust,” Oren quotes Nides as having told him.

Reflecting on the heated encounter in an interview with The Times of Israel, Oren clarified that he viewed Nides as a friend of Israel and a “very funny guy.”

“That’s been quoted as an example of an anti-Israel bent for Tom Nides. It’s not like that. That’s the way they talk,” Oren said.

Nides was reportedly considered by Hillary Clinton as White House chief of staff had she won the 2016 election. He has longtime relationships with both Biden and Obama.

Nides also serves on the board of many nonprofits, including the Atlantic Council, the International Rescue Committee, the Partnership for Public Service, the Urban Alliance Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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.

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