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Biden picks Jack Lew as ambassador to Israel at a tense time in the relationship

Jack Lew (left) with former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at a White House event on Sept. 7, 2022.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
Jack Lew (left) with former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at a White House event on Sept. 7, 2022.

Updated September 5, 2023 at 11:27 AM ET

President Biden announced that he will nominate Jack Lew, who was Treasury Secretary and chief of staff in the Obama administration, as his ambassador to Israel at a delicate moment in U.S.–Israel relations.

The nomination of Lew, a seasoned veteran who also served as deputy secretary of state, underscores the importance that Biden is putting on the relationship with Israel. The nomination requires approval by the Senate.

The announcement comes amid months of tensions between the U.S. and Israel over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposals to overhaul the country's judicial system. The far-right proposals are opposed by wide swaths of the country and have trigged months of protests.

Relations between Biden and Netanyahu have intensified as a result and Lew will be called on to help shepherd that relationship. Biden is expected to meet with Netanyahu later this year.

The White House also has been working behind the scenes to try to broker a deal for Israel and Saudi Arabia to establish formal diplomatic relations.

Lew is currently a managing partner of private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg, LLC and a visiting professor of international public affairs at Columbia University.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.