The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jacob J. Lew as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, filling a post that the Biden administration has argued is critical to efforts to help the country as it seeks to topple Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ward off additional challenges from other Iran-linked groups in the region.
The 53-to-43 vote reflected a deep partisan divide over whether Mr. Lew, who served as Treasury secretary during the Obama administration, was the right man for the job. Only two Republicans, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky, joined all Democrats in backing Mr. Lew’s confirmation.
Mr. Lew’s confirmation comes as Congress is rushing to respond to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza with a comprehensive package of emergency military and humanitarian assistance. President Biden has requested a $105 billion national security spending package for the war efforts in Israel and Ukraine, as well as threats in the Indo-Pacific and along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The task has been complicated by partisan divisions between the Democratic-led Senate, which is working to fulfill Mr. Biden’s request, and the Republican-led House. The new speaker, Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, has chosen instead to put forward a security assistance bill for Israel alone and package it with a provision to roll back an I.R.S. enforcement initiative that was part of Mr. Biden’s deficit reduction measure.
Though Mr. Biden nominated Mr. Lew before the war broke out, the urgency surrounding his confirmation has increased as the hostilities between Israel and Gaza have escalated. But while Republicans acknowledged the need to install a Senate-confirmed ambassador to the post, they rallied against Mr. Lew’s candidacy, arguing that his work promoting and carrying out a multinational nuclear pact with Iran during the Obama years had rendered him an untrustworthy interlocutor with Israel.
Republicans and Israeli officials vehemently opposed the Iran deal, which eased certain sanctions in exchange for Tehran giving up its nuclear ambitions, when it was struck in 2015. President Donald J. Trump later withdrew the United States from the pact.