President Joe Biden has nominated former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, the White House announced Tuesday.
Lew, who served as White House chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration, would succeed Ambassador Tom Nides, who left the post in July. Lew also served as OMB director during the Clinton administration.
If Lew is confirmed by the Senate, he will come to one of the highest-profile U.S. ambassadorships, with the Biden administration pushing for Israel and Saudi Arabia — two of the biggest Middle East powers but longtime rivals — to normalize their relationship.
The effort to strengthen that historically fraught relationship comes after the Trump administration helped facilitate the “Abraham Accords,” normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
A normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, the most powerful and wealthy Arab state, has the potential to reshape the region and boost Israel’s standing in significant ways. But brokering such a deal is a heavy lift as the kingdom has said it won’t officially recognize Israel before a resolution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lew is currently a managing partner at Lindsay Goldberg, a private equity firm, and a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York. A spokesperson for Lew said he did not have any immediate comment on his nomination.
Democratic Majority for Israel President and CEO Mark Mellman said Lew would come to the posting “well-versed in the intricacies of international relations and the pressing issues facing Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
He also currently serves as chair of the board of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, co-president of the board of the National Library of Israel USA and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Lew has also previously served as managing director and chief operating officer for two Citigroup business units. He was executive vice president and the chief operating officer of New York University and a professor of public administration in the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU.