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Biden nominates Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel

White House describes Nides, who has few public statements on Israel-Palestine, as 'distinguished public servant and business leader'
Nides's lack of public political statements mark a departure from David Friedman, Trump's outspoken ambassador to Israel (AFP/File photo)
By MEE staff in Washington

US President Joe Biden appointed Thomas Nides, a former diplomat and corporate official, as ambassador to Israel, as the administration says it is pushing to restore relations with Palestinians before eventually working to reconvene peace talks.

The White House announced Nides's nomination on Tuesday, calling him a "distinguished public servant and business leader".

Nides, who still needs to be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, is currently the managing director and vice-chairman at investment bank Morgan Stanley. 

He had served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources from 2010 to 2013 and previously worked in various government and corporate positions.

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Despite years in government service, Nides's public statements on politics in general - let alone Israel-Palestine - are scant. His nomination marks a departure from his would-be predecessor David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with no previous government experience with staunch pro-Israel rhetoric.

Public records show that Nides had donated money to numerous Democratic candidates for Congress and president, including the presidential campaigns of Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who represents his home state of Minnesota.

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Many of his donations in congressional races went to typically centrist Democrats in swing states, including some uncompromising supporters of Israel such as Josh Gottheimer.

A Twitter account that appears to belong to Nides, active between 2018 and 2019, shared posts supportive of Klobuchar and Democrats and critical of former President Donald Trump.

In 2012, Nides articulated the Obama administration's opposition to an effort to redefine Palestinian refugees as only people who were forced to leave Palestine in and around 1948 - excluding their descendants.

"United States policy has been consistent for decades, in both Republican and Democratic administrations - final status issues can and must only be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians in direct negotiations," Nides said in a letter to congressional leaders at the time.

"The Department of State cannot support legislation which would force the United States to make a public judgment on the number and status of Palestinian refugees."

The US administration has been criticised for the delay in nominating an envoy to Israel to replace Friedman, who resigned at the end of Trump's term in January.

Restore links with Palestinian Authority

Nides's nomination comes as Biden and his top aides are pushing to restore humanitarian aid to Palestinians and re-open a consulate to handle Palestinian affairs in East Jerusalem.

The US administration had voiced unquestioning support for Israel during its war in Gaza last month, which killed at least 256 Palestinians. Biden's team has also refrained from expressing any public criticism of Israeli policies.

On Tuesday, before Nides's nomination was announced, a State Department spokesperson refused to condemn Israeli far-right protesters who chanted racist slogans, including "death to the Arabs" in the streets of the holy city.

Jalina Porter, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, told reporters during a phone briefing that the US administration does not have a particular assessment of the right-wing march, but reiterated Washington's call for "all sides" to avoid steps that "exacerbate tensions".

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