“With Israel at war, with Hamas holding hostages in their tunnels in Gaza, with the entire world watching, given the stakes of the situation, given that Israel is fighting to defend itself, given that American lives are at risk, we cannot afford any delay. Israel cannot afford a delay.”
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered remarks on the Senate floor in support of the confirmation of Jacob J. Lew to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
“The U.S. Mission Israel team is the best in the field, but there’s no substitute for a confirmed ambassador,” said Chair Cardin. “Jacob Lew is eminently qualified to serve in this post. He has extensive experience. He has the political acumen that we need for our ambassador at this time. He has the respect of the Israeli officials.”
The Chair’s remarks, as delivered, are available here.
Mr. President, I come to the floor today in support of Jacob Lew to be our Ambassador to Israel, we’re going to have a chance to vote on that in a few moments. First the cloture and then hopefully the confirmation with the cloture being imposed.
The attack by Hamas on Israel earlier this month was heinous. It was evil. It was indescribably brutal. I was just in Israel with ten senators, five Democrats, five Republicans, and saw firsthand the scars and devastation. I saw the grief and the shock. We were there to make it clear that Israel has the right to defend itself. It has the obligation to defend itself. We recognize that the ground campaign has started to eliminate Hamas.
Hamas is evil. They're equivalent to ISIS and maybe in some cases worse. Israel's security depends upon the demise of Hamas as does the Palestinians’ future in Gaza depend upon Hamas being eliminated. We have ongoing challenges. 200-plus hostages are being held by Hamas. Their safe return is one of our highest priorities. We're all working very hard. President Biden has made it clear with positioning of U.S. assets as well as his engagement in the Middle East to prevent escalation of this conflict.
For those enemy of the United States and Israel trying to take advantage of the combat in Gaza to escalate the conflict, we have to make sure that does not happen. We have a real challenge with the humanitarian assistance through the Palestinians in Gaza that are trying to escape the brutality of Hamas. We are now fortunate that we're able to start getting trucks, humanitarian trucks into Gaza. We hope to be at about a 100 trucks a day through the Rafah Gate—more is needed.
We need to provide the medical needs, safe passage for Palestinians trying to avoid the conflict. All this is made much more difficult because of Hamas. These challenges require a U.S. partnership. We need a confirmed ambassador. We need to work together on operations. We need to work together on tactics. We need to work together on strategy with Israel. It's so much more difficult for us to be able to do that without a confirmed ambassador in Jerusalem.
How are we going to diplomatically engage at the highest levels in the region if we don't have a confirmed ambassador? It makes it much more difficult. Who's going to lead our mission to help the more than a half a million American citizens who live in Israel? Made much more difficult without a confirmed ambassador.
Mr. President, I want to make it clear, our Chargé in Jerusalem—Stephanie Hallett—is doing a phenomenal job as are the men and women of our mission in Jerusalem and they deserve our thanks and appreciation for being on the front line to represent America’s interests.
There’s no question about their loyalty and their dedication to the mission. The U.S. team in Mission Israel is the best in the field, but there’s no substitute for a confirmed ambassador. Jacob Lew is eminently qualified to serve in this post. He has extensive experience. He has the political acumen that we need for our ambassador at this time. He has the respect of the Israeli officials.
The Foreign Minister tweeted that they look forward to working with Jack Lew in quote, “the spirit of our close cooperation and alliance.” The Jerusalem Post, quoted, said, “Jack Lew is a worthy nominee and a mensch.” Support for his nomination ranges from the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center to the Anti-Defamation League.
Last week, he advanced out of the Foreign Relations Committee on a bipartisan vote. I want to thank my colleagues who worked so hard to get him through the Committee. Of course, this would not be the first time that Secretary Lew has had the support of the Senate. He has been nominated for a number of positions and this body has confirmed him with overwhelming support in the past.
And now, with Israel at war, with Hamas holding hostages in their tunnels in Gaza, with the entire world watching, given the stakes of the situation, given that Israel is fighting to defend itself, given that American lives are at risk, we cannot afford any delay. Israel cannot afford a delay.
And so Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support cloture on Jack Lew's nomination so we can get the confirmation vote without delay. And I hope that you would support these efforts.