The Senate confirmed former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to be the new U.S. ambassador to Israel on Tuesday, approving his nomination amid the war in Gaza as Congress gears up for a fight over how to provide funding to support Israel against Hamas.
The Senate voted 53-43 to confirm Lew, 68, with support from only two Republicans: Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. No members of the Democratic Caucus voted against him. President Biden nominated Lew in September amid strained relations between the U.S. and Israel over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial plans to overhaul their judicial system and settlement expansion in the West Bank. The Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas increased the urgency in confirming Lew. The U.S. has not had an ambassador in Israel since July, when Tom Nides stepped down after nearly two years on the job. Stephanie Hallett, a career diplomat, has been the top official at the U.S. Embassy in the interim.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor after the vote: “The Senate, I’m proud to say, has now taken an extremely important step in our support of Israel. With Israel defending itself against Hamas, this ambassadorship is as important and timely as any nomination that the Senate has confirmed in a long time.”
Lew, who is Jewish, has been active in pro-Israel advocacy circles during this time in government. He was White House chief of staff for the last two years of President Barack Obama’s first term and then treasury secretary from 2013 to 2017. However, Republicans had been critical of Lew over his involvement in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. During his confirmation hearing, Lew was grilled by Republicans on lifting sanctions on Iran as part of the agreement.
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