Former State Department official Thomas Nides has emerged as the likely nominee for the next US ambassador to Israel, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing several people familiar with White House plans on the matter.
The report also named other likely picks as top diplomats by US President Joe Biden’s administration.
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.
He is the managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley and has served in multiple financial institutions, including Credit Suisse and Burson-Marsteller.
From 2011 to 2013 he served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources under former US president Barack Obama, and he has served in a variety of other government positions.
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.
“You don’t want to fucking defund UNESCO. They fucking teach the fucking 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 former president Barak 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.
He isn’t the only Jewish American set to become a senior diplomat, according to the Washington Post.
Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel will be tapped as the US ambassador to Japan, Comcast executive David Cohen is the likely pick for envoy to Canada, former US envoy to Romania Mark Gitenstein is expected to become ambassador to the European Union, and major Biden donor Michael Adler will likely become ambassador to Belgium, according to the report.
Adler, a Florida real estate developer who is on the board of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, has lobbied to become envoy to Israel and told The Forward in January that he has visited the Jewish state at least once a year since 1973.
Nides, if picked, will fill the role occupied for the last four years by former president Donald Trump’s envoy David Friedman, a real estate lawyer with close ties to the settlement movement who pushed for staunch pro-Israel policies during his tenure.
He would edge out former ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who has also been a rumored candidate for the post. The ambassador’s residence would be occupied for the second time in three administrations by a native of the Duluth Jewish community in Minnesota, where both Nides and Shapiro’s wife Julie are from.