The Senate is out for the week and will not return until Monday 16 October. President Joe Biden nominated Jacob Lew, the former US Treasury Secretary during the Obama administration who practices Orthodox Judaism, to be US ambassador to Israel, in September.
Local media has reported that at least 900 people have been reportedly killed in Israel and 500 people in Gaza have been killed. President Joe Biden announced on Monday that at least 11 American citizens, many of whom had made a second home in Israel, were among the dead as a result of the terrorist assault from Hamas against Israel.
“While we are still working to confirm, we believe it is likely that American citizens may be among those being held by Hamas,” Mr Biden said in a statement. “I have directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts.”
The crisis comes as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is in a state of flux. Last month, Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted on federal corruption charges and faced numerous calls to resign. As a result, Mr Menendez, who denies any wrongdong, had to step aside and Sen Ben Cardin (D-MD), who is retiring at the end of 2024, took his spot as chairman.
Mr Cardin said in a statement on Saturday that the Senate needed to rapidly confirm Mr Lew.
“Right now, it is as critical as ever that we have a Senate-confirmed ambassador in Israel. That is why I hope my colleagues will join me in promptly confirming Secretary Jacob J Lew as the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel. I look forward to working with my colleagues, both Republican and Democratic, in moving forward on such steps swiftly to demonstrate the longstanding bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel partnership.”
Sen Chris Murphy (D-CT), another member of the committee, called for the swift confirmation of ambassadors to Israel and its neighbours in the region.
“Right now, we don’t have a U.S. Ambassador in place in Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, or Kuwait,” he said in a statement. He also noted how USAID has not had an assistant administrator for the Middle East for almost three years. He added that the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism has been awaiting confirmation for two years.
“Now is not the time for politics,” he said on Sunday. “The Senate should confirm those awaiting votes the day we are back in session, and immediately schedule committee hearings to expedite confirmation of the remainder. Democrats and Republicans must work together to support our ally Israel.”
Sen Brian Schatz (D-HI) also called for the swift confirmation of an ambassador to Israel as well as a Chief of Naval Operations.
“We need an Ambassador to Israel and a Chief of Naval Operations,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This is a serious situation that requires us to set aside our differences and make sure we have our full complement of leaders in defense and foreign policy.”
The confirmation of a naval chief might be more difficult. Sen Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has placed a blanket hold on all military nominations in protest to the Pentagon’s policies that would reimburse servicemembers if they travel to a state where abortion is more accessible.
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