Appointing Jack Lew, who has a history of insulting Benjamin Netanyahu and a harmful-to-Israel record, will only further harm the U.S.-Israel relationship, at a time when what it needs is healing.
By Morton A. Klein
(AUGUST 21, 2023 / JERUSALEM POST) In June 2015, while then-president Barack Obama’s negotiating team, sitting in a palace in Vienna, was in the last stages of appeasing the terrorist Islamic Republic of Iran – with Obama’s head negotiator bursting into tears at the negotiating table and begging Iran to enter into the disastrous anti-American and anti-Israel deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Obama’s Treasury secretary, and his former chief of staff, Jack Lew appeared at the annual Jerusalem Post Conference in New York to try to promote the JCPOA and its almost-as-bad predecessor, the interim Iran deal, the JPA.
During Lew’s lengthy conference speech, he stuck to and trotted out every Obama administration line (and lie) to try to sell the Iran deal to the American-Jewish public. Lew pledged that “the final deal will be built around an incredibly robust and intrusive inspections regime on Iran’s nuclear program” and that “this deal will only be finalized if the connective tissue of the agreement meets a tough standard of intense verification and scrutiny.”
But in fact, the deal placed Iranian military facilities (where nuclear weaponization development was most likely to take place) off limits to inspectors; it placed virtually insurmountable obstacles in the way of inspecting potential secret sites; it gave Iran significant notice before inspectors would arrive; and, in a side deal, even allowed Iran to take its own soil samples. In other words, the opposite of the “incredibly robust and intrusive inspections” and “intense verification” promised by Lew.
Lew also assured the crowd in New York: “We are not operating on an assumption that Iran will act in good faith.” But that assurance was belied by Obama’s Neville Chamberlain-like Iran deal lead negotiator Wendy Sherman, who absurdly said in her book that the Iran deal “was anchored by a common wish to make peace,” “higher principles,” “reimagining of the world,” and seeing the Iranians as “partners.”
Early in his speech, Lew also asserted that “what we are doing [is] to effectively guarantee that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. Making sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon is a national security priority of the highest order.”
But “never” apparently really meant 10 years – or even one year. Lew later mentioned: “Under the agreement we are pursuing, for at least 10 years Iran will be kept at least one year away from having enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.” Obama also admitted that, at most, after 13 to 15 years, all nuclear restrictions on Iran ended.
‘Jack Lew lied about Israel, shilled for Iran, and called for Israel’s suicidal retreat.’
Lew also had the gall to claim during his Jerusalem Post conference speech that “No administration has done more for Israel’s security than this one.”
That’s not exactly the truth about the Obama administration that was about to enrich the extremist antisemitic terrorist Iranian mullahs with $150 billion in sanctions relief; repeatedly called for Israel to retreat to the suicidal pre-1967 lines with hypothetical small swaps; sent huge annual sums to the Palestinian Authority – thereby helping to enable the PA’s “pay to slay” program of payments to Palestinian and Israeli Arabs to murder Jews; sent Egypt $1 billion of the latest weaponry during the frightening one-year period when the Muslim Brotherhood was in charge; repeatedly castigated Jews for building a few apartments in the Jewish homeland; and much more.
The savvy Jerusalem Post crowd was not pleased with Lew’s lines. Multiple news outlets reported that the crowd booed and heckled Lew “loudly and consistently”; shouted out “nonsense” in response to Lew’s nonsense; and had “one of the surliest reactions ever accorded to such a high-ranking administration official by a Jewish audience in the United States.”
The news that Lew is the front-runner to become the new U.S. ambassador to Israel is deeply concerning. The fact that Lew served as chief of staff to the most hostile-to-Israel U.S. president ever, says volumes about his inappropriateness for the ambassador to Israel post. But it gets even worse.
In addition to shilling for the terrible Iran deal, Lew promoted a slew of other anti-Israel policies. These include Lew’s support for the infamous virulently anti-Israel, antisemitic UN Security Council Resolution 2334; discontinuation of American vetoes to support Israel at the UN Security Council; insistence on the creation of a dangerous Palestinian Arab (terrorist dictatorship) state on Israel’s lawful land; opposition to moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem; blaming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the partisan divide regarding Israel created by President Barack Obama; falsely claiming that Netanyahu was more hostile to Obama than Obama was to Israel; opposing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem; and maligning Netanyahu’s much-needed 2015 speech before Congress opposing the Iran deal as a “provocation.”
Lew, moreover, promoted anti-Israel UNSC Resolution 2334 by portraying the Obama administration as merely “not vetoing” the resolution, and by downplaying the resolution as “simply carrying out U.S. administration policy opposing settlements,” when it was so much worse than that.
In fact, UNSC Resolution 2334 absurdly, shockingly, and falsely labeled Judaism’s holiest places, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, as well as Judea and Samaria, the Jewish Quarter, Hebrew University, Hadassah Hospital and the Mount of Olives as “occupied Arab land”; falsely claimed that the Jewish presence (and homes) in these historic Jewish lands has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law”; and promoted Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
UNSC Resolution 2334 was so bad that the U.S. Congress immediately and overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan congressional resolution (H. Res. 11) condemning it, when Congress returned into session in January.
Yet Lew defended allowing the passage of this vicious Israel-phobic UN Resolution.
Moreover, Obama didn’t only “not veto” UNSC 2334. Then-Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon revealed that the Obama administration orchestrated this terrible resolution. It twisted its allies’ arms to vote for it and it was trying to orchestrate yet another extreme, anti-Israel UN resolution during Obama’s final weeks in office.
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer wrote an open letter after UNSC Resolution 2334’s passage, imploring Lew to resign as treasury secretary, in solidarity with the Jewish people. This was Lew’s moment, Rabbi Fischer wrote, to earn a place in Jewish history by putting standing with the Jewish people above the high government position that Lew had attained.
Rabbi Fischer reminded Lew of the great Don Isaac Abravanel, finance minister to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 15th-century Spain. Although Abravanel could have remained in his high position in Spain, he instead joined his fellow Jews who were being expelled.
Sadly, Lew missed the opportunity to become a stalwart Jewish hero and instead sided with the Obama administration’s hostility to the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Many additional issues will also need to be explored if Lew is nominated. For instance, how was Lew – who was treasury secretary at the time – involved in Obama sending planeloads with $1.7 billion of cash to Iran?
Numerous commentators are concerned that the Biden administration may be using Lew’s Orthodox Jewish identity as a cover to protect the administration from charges of antisemitism while the administration continues to push Biden’s long list of anti-Israel policies.
Elevating Lew to the important post of U.S. ambassador to Israel is also particularly unwise when Biden is already widely viewed as disrespecting Israel and its prime minister. The U.S. president has interfered in Israel’s internal affairs (including judicial reform); has sent $1.5 billion in funding to the Palestinians and Hamas-allied UNRWA; has pressured Israel to take steps that harm its security and has continued to delay inviting Netanyahu to the White House.
The previous U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides also enraged many Israelis and pro-Israel Americans with his interference in Israel’s internal affairs; pressures to open a divisive Palestinian Arab consulate and to take steps undermining Israel’s security; and nasty comments, such as calling Jews living in Judea and Samaria “stupid” and “infuriating.”
Appointing Lew, who has a history of insulting Netanyahu and a harmful-to-Israel record, will only further harm the U.S.-Israel relationship, at a time when what it needs is healing.
The Zionist Organization of America thus strongly opposes nominating Jack Lew to become U.S. ambassador to the State of Israel.
Morton A. Klein is the president of the Zionist Organization of America.
This op-ed was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and can be viewed here.