The Senate on Tuesday confirmed former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew as the new US ambassador to Israel, despite stiff opposition from Senate Republicans over his involvement in the Iran nuclear deal during the Obama administration.
He was confirmed by a vote of 53-43.
Lew is a veteran of several Democratic administrations having also served as chief of staff under then-President Barack Obama and director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama and then-President Bill Clinton.
Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky were the only two Republicans to vote to confirm Lew.
Graham acknowledged in a statement explaining his vote that there are “legitimate concerns about Mr. Lew,” and his decision was “not something I took lightly.”
“However, I know from my recent travel to Israel that it is imperative the United States immediately have an ambassador in place,” Graham said. “Israel’s back is against the wall and time is of the essence. Now more than ever, the United States needs an Ambassador in Israel.”
“The leaders I spoke with in the Israeli government both knew and were comfortable with Mr. Lew serving in this position,” he added.
Paul said in a statement that “After meeting personally with Jack Lew, I found him to be a thoughtful individual who will strive to do his best to represent the United States in Israel,” and also cited the crisis in Israel as a reason for confirming the ambassador.
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the importance of filling the vacancy in Israel amid the current conflict. “With everything happening in Israel right now, confirming Jack Lew at this moment will be one of the most important and consequential nomination votes the Senate has taken in a long time,” he said.
Schumer added, “Lew has a strong, long, proven record as a public servant and ferocious ally of Israel, and it will help send a powerful message of support to Israel to have this appointment filled ASAP.”
However, many Republicans made their opposition to Lew’s nomination clear in the weeks leading up to his confirmation. Senator Tom Cotton has attacked Lew as an “Iran sympathizer who has no business being our ambassador,” and Senator Eric Schmitt wrote in a post on X, “As Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was a key figure in the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal. Iran is the chief sponsor of Hamas. Jack Lew has no business being the US Ambassador to Israel.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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