On Monday morning, Thomas Nides, the new US ambassador to Israel, landed on the Ben Gurion Airport and then headed straight to quarantine for three days in his new home in Jerusalem. This is in accordance with the new regulations imposed in Israel for curbing the spread of the newly-identified Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Nides recorded a video hours after his landing and talked about his first trip to the country liked a 15-year old, as he referred to it as a ‘dream come true’. Nides said that as President Joe Biden had stated, the ties between the two countries are unbreakable.
He said that it was a great privilege for him to be able to represent the United States of America in Israel. The chief of protocol of the Foreign Ministry, Gil Haskel and Jonathan Shrier, the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, were there at the airport to receive Nides. A transfer of authority certificate was signed by Shrier to the new envoy. A longtime operative of the Democratic party and formerly deputy assistant secretary of state, Nides had been confirmed as the new ambassador earlier this month, after the nomination process had been held up temporarily by the Senate Republicans.
This confirmation brought an end to an almost 10-month period when there was no US ambassador to Israel. The former ambassador, David Friedman, had stepped down from his position back in January. Michael Ratney had been running the US Embassy in Jerusalem, who is the former consul general, since June as interim chargé d’affaires. Nides had been formally tapped for the position in June by the US President Joe Biden and even though he wasn’t a controversial candidate, his nomination had become a victim of the partisan politics in Washington, along with a number of others.
Democrats had accused the Republicans of drawing out the process. 60-year old Nides had taken the post, as disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem threaten to stress the warm relationship between the Bennett and Biden governments. The US and Israel have found themselves at odds over the plans of the US President for reopening a Jerusalem consulate to deal with Palestinian affairs. Trump had closed this consulate when he had shifted the US embassy to Jerusalem and the Palestinian affairs unit had also fallen under the embassy. Monday will also see indirect talks between Iran and the US for returning to the nuclear deal signed in 2015.
Israeli leaders have expressed their opposition to a return to the deal publicly, whereas Biden has been open about his desire to go back to the deal. Nides had formerly worked as the deputy secretary of state for resources and management and had most recently been working as Morgan Stanley’s vice chairman and managing director. Even though his background is not Israel-focused as some previous US ambassadors, he is not a complete stranger to it. Nides had established working relationships with several officials in Israel in his position of deputy secretary of state and had also played a crucial role in the approval of loans to Israel in the Obama administration.