U.S. President Joe Biden nominated Jacob (“Jack”) Lew on Tuesday, Sept. 5, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Thomas Nides, the previous U.S. ambassador to Israel, resigned this summer.
Lew, a 67-year-old Orthodox Jew, was White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, and he directed the Office of Management and Budget under both presidents Obama and Bill Clinton.
The managing partner of a private equity firm who trained as a lawyer is also a visiting international and public affairs professor at Columbia University. Lew further served as treasury secretary under Obama and was part of the National Security Council in two former administrations.
Some Washington Jewish insiders have praised Lew and his qualifications. “Jack would be a great U.S. ambassador to Israel if chosen. He knows well the ways of Washington and he knows Israel,” Steve Rabinowitz, a longtime Washington media strategist and publicist and founder of Bluelight Strategies, told JNS.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and the movement’s main government relations official in Washington, as well as founder and rabbi of a Chabad synagogue in the District, has been friends with Lew for 30 years.
Lew has come under fire for defending the Iran nuclear deal, which he argued would make Israel safer, and for supporting Obama’s decision in 2016 not to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which declared Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria illegal.
Several GOP legislators have publicly declared opposition to Lew.
Jonathan Schachter, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East and former adviser to Netanyahu from 2013 to 2018, told JNS that Lew is “clearly somebody the White House knows well and trusts.” “If he becomes ambassador, this comes at a time when Iran continues to advance its nuclear capability and the Biden administration considers sanctions relief as part of a deal to free American hostages,” Schachter said. Lew’s prior support for the Iran deal would not reflect negatively on his nomination in Israel, according to Schachter. “Israel respects the choices of the president and would work closely with any ambassador that is appointed,” he said.