Tom Nides, President Joe Biden's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, told his Senate confirmation hearing that he will ensure the U.S. will remain unwavering in its support for Israel's security, one day after the removal of $1 billion in emergency Iron Dome missile defense funding from a key spending bill sparked uproar.
"The United States remains unwavering in its commitment to Israel's security supported by a 10-year, $3.8 billion memorandum of understanding," Nides told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Dubbing Israel one of the United States' "closest security partners" – especially in countering the "the critical threat that Iran poses" – Nides echoed Biden's commitment to ensuring Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. "Upholding Israel security serves America's national security interests and ensures that we will always have a strong, reliable and secure partner," Nides said.
Later, in the Q&A section of the hearing, Nides addressed the recent dispute over $1 billion in emergency Iron Dome funding, after progressive Democrats pushed party leadership to remove the provision from the stopgap funding bill. "It's in our national security interest to support a very, very important ally in the region, and this is a defensive mechanism to stop rockets raining on Israel," Nides said, expressing his support for Iron Dome replenishment.
Nides also said he looks forward to working with Israel to protect freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly to create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard. "Equally, we must continue to oppose all efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel," Nides said, vowing to work hard "to firmly reject the BDS movement and boycott laws which unfairly single out Israel."
He praised Israel's normalization pacts with Arab states as critical to regional stability and prosperity, saying he would support efforts to expand cooperation and bring new countries into the fold. He noted, however, that they do not serve as a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace, vowing to seek to harness the agreements to preserve a two-state solution. He added that he is committed to doing his part to rebuild the relationship between the U.S. and the Palestinians.
"Frank and fruitful dialogues only strengthen our partnership and deepen the bonds between Americans and Israelis," he said.
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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents Nides' home state of Minnesota and has a decades-long friendship with him, introduced Nides and lauded his bona fides demonstrated by his years of service and leadership in both the public and private sector.
"Members on both sides of the aisle understand that the deep friendship between our two countries is based on shared values, and that Israel's interests in the Middle East are strongly aligned with our own support for Israel. It can never, ever become a partisan issue," Klobuchar said, adding that "now more than ever we need an ambassador dedicated to fostering lasting peace and stability."
Sen. Robert Menendez, who also serves as committee chair, echoed Klobuchar's remarks, saying that "while some may try to exploit any small fissures or differences in policy opinions between our two countries, this committee, the Senate and the Congress as a whole have repeatedly confirmed our unwavering support for Israel security and its right to defend itself in the face of neighbors who continue to threaten to wipe it off the map."
Nides responded in the affirmative when asked that he is committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, keeping the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and re-opening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. He declined to directly affirm that the Golan Heights are part of Israel, saying "we support the current position vis-a-vis the threats that we have in Syria with Assad and it's an important strategic position for the Israelis."
Nides noted that while no one believes a two-state solution is achievable in the next couple of weeks, he believes the U.S. must work to create the pathway to achieve this through means such as stressing a two-state solution's importance, seeing through assistance to the Palestinians and encouraging both sides not to take any unilateral actions. "We can only control what we can control," he said, saying the administration's position is to "set the table" in a way that keeps Israelis and Palestinians from undertaking actions making a two-state solution impossible to achieve.
Nides is not expected to face opposition, nor is his nomination expected to be blocked despite the de facto blockade on State Department nominees instituted by Sen. Ted Cruz over the Biden administration's handling of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.