Jack Lew, Biden's Ambassador Nominee To Israel Defends Record On Iran
Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, President Joe Biden's ambassador nominee to Israel defends record on Iran, and faced a challenging confirmation hearing on Wednesday. The focus of the hearing centered on Lew's involvement in the Iran nuclear deal and the Biden administration's strategy regarding Iran's use of funds once sanctions are lifted.
Lew played a pivotal role in crafting the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which drew staunch opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argued that it allowed Iran a clear path to nuclear weapons. This accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aimed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. However, former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2018, aligning with Israel's stance.
During the hearing, Lew emphasized that Iran should not be viewed as a rational economic actor, stating that regardless of U.S. sanctions, Iran would prioritize funding malign activities over humanitarian aid. He articulated, "It's not just an economic question; it's a matter of understanding who we are dealing with. We are dealing with an evil, malign government that prioritizes funding its nefarious activities."
Lew acknowledged that a majority of the funds returned to Iran through the lifting of sanctions are directed toward humanitarian purposes. However, he also acknowledged the possibility of some funds being misappropriated. He commented, "While there may be some leakage, it won't fundamentally alter their activities. Sadly, supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah is not a costly endeavor."
Regarding President Biden's stance on recent events in Gaza, Lew expressed support, stating, "I am proud to see President Biden's principled stand. Even amid the fog of the moment, he did not yield to disinformation. Based on the information available, he maintained that Israel was not responsible for the tragic bombing of a Gaza hospital."
Before the confirmation hearing, several Republican senators signaled their intention to slow down Lew's nomination on the Senate floor. They raised concerns about Lew's involvement in the Iran nuclear deal during the Obama administration.
Senator Marco Rubio, a senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced reservations, asserting, "While it is essential to have ambassadors in every country, it is equally important to ensure they are the right individuals for the role. In Mr. Lew's case, I have genuine concerns regarding his prior misrepresentations to Congress about financial arrangements made during the Obama Administration."
Senator Pete Ricketts of Nebraska expressed deep reservations about the Iran nuclear deal, asserting, "While we must hold his hearing, I hold substantial concerns about his involvement in a deal that, in my view, facilitates Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons."
Although Lew requires just 51 votes for confirmation, a single senator can slow down the process during Senate floor proceedings. Senate Minority Whip John Thune acknowledged resistance to Lew's nomination, stating that significant opposition exists within the Senate.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming hinted at the possibility of a senator placing a hold to delay Lew's confirmation, though he refrained from specifying who might take that step. Senator Tom Cotton also indicated potential opposition to a swift confirmation, characterizing Lew as an "ambassadorial nominee to Israel who is lenient on Iran at a time when tensions are high."
Senate Democrats rallied behind Lew's qualifications, asserting that appointing a new ambassador to Israel should be a top priority. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin underscored the importance of supporting Israel in addressing humanitarian needs amid the ongoing conflict.
As Lew's confirmation continues to be a matter of contention between Republicans and Democrats, it remains pending, subject to further deliberation in the Senate. The Senate's decision on his suitability for the role will be a crucial aspect of U.S.-Israel relations and broader Middle East policy.
In conclusion, Jack Lew's confirmation as ambassador to Israel encountered substantial scrutiny and challenges from Republican senators concerned about his role in the Iran nuclear deal and his overall suitability for the position. The debate underscores the complexity of U.S.-Israel relations and the broader regional policy landscape.