US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides set to depart his post this summer

Envoy said to be looking to spend more time with his family, after two years in the job under three Israeli prime ministers

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides speaks at an event in Jerusalem on February 19, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides speaks at an event in Jerusalem on February 19, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides is planning to leave his post over the summer after two years in the role.

The decision was first reported by the Axios news site, which cited two US officials saying Nides informed US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken of his intention during a visit to Washington last week.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy confirmed the news on Tuesday, saying, “It’s true that Ambassador Nides met with his senior staff this morning to inform them of his intent to step down this summer.”

According to Axios, Nides cited personal reasons for the decision, after being largely away from his family since December 2021.

During his time in the role, Nides has worked with three different prime ministers, starting when Benjamin Netanyahu was in office, then serving through Naftali Bennett’s term, Yair Lapid’s short stint and now once again under a Netanyahu government.

Nides’s term in office included a major push by Israel to enter the US Visa Waiver Program. While significant progress has been made in the country’s bid for VWP membership, Jerusalem still has to check off several requirements.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides (C) at the Allenby crossing on April 2, 2023. (Jeries Mansour, US Office of Palestinian Affairs)

While relations between the Biden White House and the current Netanyahu administration have been tense at times, Nides has largely been seen as a congenial conduit who is respected by senior Israeli officials.

Since Netanyahu’s hardline government took office late last year, a handful of comments by the US ambassador sparked ire by some members of the coalition, including his remark in February that the Biden administration would like the government to “pump the brakes” on its judicial overhaul plan.

His comment caused Likud’s Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli to shoot back at Nides: “Pump the brakes yourself and mind your own business.” But the US envoy shook off the criticism, saying that “I think that most Israelis do not want America to stay out of their business.”

In a rare moment where Nides appeared out of lockstep with his boss in Washington, the US envoy said in March — after Netanyahu froze the overhaul legislation — that he expected the prime minister to be invited to the White House “quite soon.” But hours later, US President Joe Biden gave an emphatic “no” to the prospect of inviting Netanyahu “in the near term.”

President Joe Biden bids farewell to Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog after a three-day visit to Israel, at Ben Gurion Airport on July 15, 2022, as he leaves for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (GPO screenshot)

Speaking two weeks ago in Jerusalem, Nides said that despite any disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington, “at the end of the day, the support for the State of Israel is rock solid… like any great relationship, we’ve got to keep working and nurturing it. And when we have problems, we have to work it through.”

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

Born in 1961 to a Jewish family in Duluth, Minnesota, Nides brought both his governmental 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).

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