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Biden Nominates Jacob Lew for U.S. Ambassador to Israel

U.S. President Joe Biden nominated former Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew to be U.S. ambassador to Israel, the White House announced Tuesday.

Lew, whose nomination needs Senate approval, will succeed Tom Nides, who stepped down from the post in July after having served the role since December 2021. If confirmed, Lew will travel to Jerusalem, where the U.S. embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv during former President Donald Trump’s administration.

An orthodox Jew with deep experience in public service, Lew is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in a relatively smooth process, according to analysis by U.S. media, despite the ambassadorship being his first overseas duty.

Lew served as Secretary of the Treasury during the second presidential term of Barack Obama, earlier in whose administration Lew held the posts of White House chief of staff, director of the Office of Management and Budget, as well as the inaugural deputy Secretary of State for management and resources.

Between 1993 and 1994, Lew was special assistant to the president under then President Bill Clinton. Before that, he served as a Congressional aide to Democratic lawmakers in the House.

Currently, Lew is managing partner of Lindsay Goldberg LLC and a visiting professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. He earned a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard College.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel is one of the most important ambassadorships for Washington. Biden tapped Lew for the job at a critical point in time when the administration is walking a tightrope between properly responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push for a controversial judicial overhaul in the country and avoiding the U.S.-Israeli alliance from deteriorating too much due to friction over the issue.

The Biden administration is also at odds with Netanyahu’s government over an intention from Washington to re-negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, which Israel perceives as an existential threat. The Trump administration pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, of which Lew was involved in the drafting.

In the meantime, the Biden administration is trying to broker a normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. As part of the Arab-Israel conflict, ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh have been fraught historically, and the two countries have never established diplomatic relations.