WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered opening remarks at the nomination hearing for Jacob J. Lew to be U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel.
A copy of the Chair’s remarks, as delivered, have been provided below.
Today’s hearing carries great importance—for the United States, for Israel, and the region. The attacks by Hamas just over ten days ago in Israel mark the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. Abducting elderly in wheelchairs. Burning people alive. Killing babies in front of parents.
It was not only horrific and barbaric, but methodically planned and carried out. Hamas has started a war. Given the dangerous state of emergency that Israel faces, the United States needs a confirmed U.S. Ambassador in Jerusalem. We need someone there to reinforce the message that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the State of Israel as it responds to the unprecedented terrorist attack. We need someone to lead the remarkable, selfless U.S. personnel who have been working nonstop at Mission Israel. We need an ambassador who can work with our Israeli partners and help provide services to over 600,000 American citizens here.
So Secretary Lew, it is with great urgency that we hold this nomination hearing today. I am committed to getting you in place in Israel as soon as possible.
I want to thank Senator Risch for working with me so we could expedite this hearing today, I thank him for that. I think we both agree that speed is of the essence in having a confirmed Ambassador to Israel. So I’m going to ask the cooperation of our colleagues. I’m going to ask that questions for the record be submitted by close of business today, and we will make every effort to make sure that we get those responses to you by this weekend. We have scheduled a business meeting for next week for the vote on this nomination. I ask the committee’s cooperation because of the urgency of voting on a confirmed ambassador for the state of Israel.
Since October 7, Hamas has killed more than one thousand innocent people and injured thousands more. They have viciously killed hostages, and are still holding others—including American citizens. I cannot overstate the urgency for the United States to have a confirmed ambassador on the ground. To help deliver US support for Israel; to deal with the hostage situation; to deal with the humanitarian needs that we know exist. We need an ambassador who, at this critical and delicate time, can speak with authority and engage diplomatically in the region at the highest level.
Secretary Lew’s experience, gravitas, and political acumen makes him eminently qualified to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. I have seen first-hand Jack Lew’s commitment to public service. His integrity, his dedication to American values. His understanding of the United States’ national security needs. And his deep understanding and respect for the legislative branch of government. I also know his effectiveness in crafting solutions to very difficult problems. I want to thank Secretary Lew for his service to our country and your willingness to continue that service in this critically important position as ambassador to Israel. And I want to thank your family, because we know this is a family sacrifice. Thank you once again for understanding the need for Jack’s service to our nation.
The last time Secretary Lew was before the Senate as a nominee, he was confirmed by an overwhelming majority of 71 to 26. Now is not the time to play political games. We need to make sure that other nations and terrorist groups do not exploit the crisis and open new fronts in the conflict.
We need to be clear with everyone. From Hezbollah in Lebanon; to the regime in Iran; to Assad in Syria and even Putin in Russia: don’t even think about joining or expanding the war.
To that end, we also need to confirm ambassadors to the other critical posts in the region. Doing so would allow Ambassador Lew to work with Senate-confirmed counterparts in Amman, Beirut, and Cairo to make sure Americans throughout the region are safe and our interests are represented to the fullest extent.
Secretary Lew, there is clearly no shortage of challenges facing you in this post. I look forward to hearing how you plan to address them, and what Congress can do to support that. We need your eyes and ears to better understand what is going on in Jerusalem and Ramallah. We need you to keep pushing forward the normalization agreements between Israel and Saudi Arabia. We need you to make it clear to our allies and enemies that when our friends are in trouble, the United States has their back.
But most importantly of all, we need you confirmed. Without objection, I’ll enter into the record letters of support for Secretary Lew, including from the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Without objection. At this time, let me turn to our very distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Risch.