U.S. Senate Approves New Ambassador to Israel
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U.S. Senate Approves New Ambassador to Israel

Thomas Nides served as Sen. Joe Lieberman’s campaign manager in 2000.

The nomination of Thomas Nides was finally approved by the Senate Nov. 3, after 10 months in which the U.S. didn’t have a full-time ambassador in Israel. His nomination was the exception to the rule in which Republican Senators have been refusing to even vote on President Joe Biden’s ambassadorial nominations. Biden had nominated Nides in July. He is expected to arrive in Israel shortly.

Until his nomination, Nides served as the managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley. From 2010 to 2013, he served as the U.S. State Department’s deputy secretary of state for management and resources. Prior to that service, he was Morgan Stanley’s chief administrative officer, chief operating officer and secretary of the board, the president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller in New York and the chief administrative officer of Credit Suisse First Boston in Washington, D.C. He also served as the senior vice president of Fannie Mae in Washington from 1998 to 2001.

Thomas Nides is expected to arrive in Israel for his new job shortly.

“He will do a great job,” said former Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, “because he has two key ingredients. He has access to the White House and with the president, and he has the personality. He will immediately charm” Israelis. “He’s very engaging.”

Indyk knows Nides “quite well,” he said from when they were both colleagues in the State Department. Nides had “worked closely with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” Indyk told the AJT.

Nides follows David Friedman as ambassador. Friedman, who had served as former President Donald Trump’s bankruptcy attorney, took office in March 2017 and left office after Trump lost re-election. Friedman’s nomination had been very controversial, with several American Jewish organizations coming out against his nomination, along with four Jewish representatives in Congress. In addition, five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel – Thomas Pikering, William Harrop, Edward Walker Jr., Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham – signed a letter declaring Friedman unqualified.

In contrast, Nides’ nomination received wide support from Jewish organizations, as well as from Congress with which he was familiar. He had served as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Micky Kantor, as well as a senior advisor to Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley and senior advisor to House Majority Whip Tony Coelho.

The Nides nomination had been among several State Department positions Republican senators had blocked from a swift confirmation through holds. Without the holds, nominees can be confirmed through a voice vote, a process that generally takes only minutes as long as no senator objects. Once the hold on Nides’ nomination was removed, it passed overwhelmingly in a voice vote on Nov. 4.

“He will do a great job,” said former ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, of the new ambassador.

When he arrives in Israel, he will immediately step into a whirlwind created during his predecessor’s service. Under Trump and Friedman, the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and closed its Jerusalem consulate which had dealt with Palestinian issues. The Biden Administration has pledged to reopen that consulate, either on Agron Street in West Jerusalem or the previous site in East Jerusalem to enable the administration to reestablish a relationship with the Palestinians that had been severed under Trump. There had been a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem since before the State of Israel was declared.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have argued against the reopening of the consulate. They contend that a consulate dealing with Palestinian affairs in Jerusalem would contradict the argument that Jerusalem is solely the capital of Israel.

As deputy secretary of state, Nides played a key role in the Obama Administration’s approval of an extension on loan guarantees for Israel worth billions of dollars, according to the Times of Israel. He also supported Obama’s efforts against congressional attempts to limit U.S. support for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

A Minnesota native, Nides served as former Senator Joseph Lieberman’s campaign manager when he ran for vice president in 2000. He was also a recipient of the secretary of state’s Distinguished Service Award.

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