US/World News

Jewish Biden supporters back Robert Wexler for ambassador to Israel

(JTA) — At least three top Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have made representations to the White House to name Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman, to be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. The push, which has been joined by figures who led Joe Biden’s presidential election campaign in the Jewish community, intensified this week when it appeared that Biden had settled on Tom Nides, a former deputy secretary of state who is Jewish but whose Israel record is a relative blank slate. Underpinning the pressure to name Wexler is the hope that Biden names an ambassador who understands the sensitivities of the country and of the American Jewish community. Also a factor is Wexler’s familiarity with Arab players in the region, including the Palestinians.

The three Jewish Democrats who have been pressing the issue are Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Jerry Nadler of New York. Deutch, who chairs the House Middle East subcommittee, replaced Wexler when Wexler quit Congress in 2010. Michael Adler, a Florida-based donor who has backed Biden presidential campaigns going back to the 1988 race, is, according to sources, leading the push for Wexler.

Wexler has longstanding and deep ties to Israel and the pro-Israel community. He was the first Jewish member of Congress to back then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2007. He left Congress in 2010 to lead the Center for Middle East Peace, a group that works behind the scenes to advance the two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He currently heads the Tel Aviv office of a major American lobbying outfit, Ballard Partners, but has not been a registered lobbyist for more than two years.

Recently, Deutch told Haaretz, “He knows the issues, he knows the players, he’s well respected across the political spectrum and he understands the many challenges that come with that position. Hadar Susskind, the CEO of Americans for Peace Now, said he was hearing broad support for Wexler in the pro-Israel community, encompassing backers of liberal groups like his, but also backers of AIPAC, the powerhouse lobby: “In 48 hours I’ve heard from many members of Congress and Jewish community leaders, and they are a politically diverse group. APN supporters, AIPAC people, federation leaders, Jewish members of Congress, non-Jews, progressives and centrists. There is a lot of support for Robert out there.”

The announcement is expected to be made by the end of May.

Main Photo: Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Israel in July 2009. (Israeli Government Press Office)

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