Sources: Wexler a top contender for ambassador to Israel, but post could be left open
The former Florida congressman ‘is in a strong position and already has established relationships with the Israelis,’ one individual familiar with the process noted
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) is a top contender to replace Tom Nides as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, two individuals familiar with the nomination process told Jewish Insider. But observers also say the administration may not actually pick a new ambassador before the November 2024 presidential elections, given time and political constraints.
One source noted that Wexler, who served in the House from 1997 to 2010 and currently is the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, “is in a strong position and already has established relationships with the Israelis.”
Other candidates under consideration include Democratic fundraiser Michael Adler, currently the U.S. ambassador to Belgium; former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY); former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who served from 2011-2017; and Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Aaron Keyak.
Keyak served as the interim special envoy during the drawn-out confirmation process for Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt.
Adler would have to leave his current plum post in Brussels, and Israel, who currently runs a bookstore on Long Island and is a political commentator, may not want to jump back into the political fray. Shapiro is currently the director of the N7 Initiative and a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs. Israel, Adler, Shapiro and Wexler were all previously considered for the position in the Biden administration.
Asked about a potential nomination, Wexler told JI, “At this point, there is nothing to share.” Israel and Shapiro did not respond to requests for comment.
One source noted that it might be difficult for the administration to find a nominee who would receive Republican support in the Senate, “so the question is if Wexler can get through the Senate.”
It’s also unclear whether the administration has the time or political capital to vet, nominate, confirm, train, deploy and orient an ambassador before the 2024 election.
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he thinks the administration is leaning toward leaving current Deputy Chief of Mission Stephane Hallet in place as charge d’affaires until after the end of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. One source who floated possible candidates for the job said they also see this as a possibility.
“The reality is that from here on in, risk-aversion will pertain to foreign policy as the presidential sweepstakes moves forward. Domestic politics — already a key constraint — will become more so. I don’t know where a U.S. ambassador fits in the broader scheme of things and how urgent it is with a very strong DCM,” Miller said. “The last thing anybody would want is a fight in Congress over that. So unless you can identify a non-stick Teflon candidate who’d sail through confirmation, why rush?”