Biden’s nominee to serve as Israel’s ambassador faces GOP grilling over past Iranian nuclear policies
While senators from both parties are eager to confirm a nominee to serve as ambassador to Israel, Senate Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday questioned whether President Joe Biden’s nominee to fill the vacancy, Jack Lew, is the right man for the US ambassador’s job. In Israel. This position comes at a critical moment for the Middle East amid the terrorist attack launched by Hamas on Israel.
Chairman Ben Cardin urged his colleagues to confirm Leo urgently following the departure of Tom Needs in July.
“Now is not the time to play political games,” Cardin said.
While Ranking Member James Risch, R-Idaho, acknowledged that it was important to “support Israel by filling the vacant position of ambassador to Israel,” Risch reviewed concerns he had about Leo as a replacement.
“I agree with you: We need to fill this thing,” Risch told Cardin in his opening statement. “The problem I have is that it has to be filled with the right person. The only thing worse than leaving it empty is having the wrong person in there, and I have some issues with that, which we’ll talk about.”
Throughout the hearing, Liu attempted to fend off multiple GOP allegations that while serving as Treasury Secretary, he was complicit in trying to bend the rules to allow Iran access to U.S. financial systems in the wake of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the JCPOA. The Iran nuclear deal, despite a promise to the contrary to Congress. These claims were first proven in the Republican-led 2018 election a report by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which found that Liu issued specific authorizations to allow Iran to transfer some of its funds through the US financial system. On February 24, 2016, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an agency of the Treasury Department, issued a specific license to Bank Muscat allowing approximately $5.7 billion in Iranian assets to flow through the U.S. financial system, which would expire in February 2017, according to the report. Liu has testified before Congress in the past, saying Iran would not have such access. During his interrogation, Risch cited the report to accuse Liu of enabling Iran.
“What I can tell you is that the government of Iran thought we were not giving them what they expected, which was full access to the global financial system. They complained that it was my actions that prevented them from full access to the global financial system. … We did the letter of agreement.” [and] “He gave them what was agreed upon in the JCPOA, nothing more,” Liu replied.
“I have to tell you that this is something that we knew nothing about at the time you issued this license, and we believe that was in direct contravention of what you told us here on this committee in July 2015, and to be honest with you, I am deeply disappointed,” Resch said. “In this regard…holding Iran under the table does not suit me, and I am deeply disappointed that you issued this license.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., read a quote from 2017 letter “To be clear, the US Treasury is not working on behalf of Iran to enable Iranians to access the US dollar elsewhere in the international financial system, nor are we assisting Iran in accessing dollar payment systems outside the international financial system,” Liu wrote. American financial system. The administration has not been and does not plan to grant Iran access to the US financial system.
“So, the way I would describe this is your testimony that you were not giving them access to the U.S. financial system. Then you were issued a special license, which was not published — perhaps no one was supposed to know about that — to help them access “The US financial system, and then they asked two banks to help transfer the money. And they chose not to do that… and then when we write to you about it, not once, but twice, you deny or mislead that any of this was happening,” Rubio said. “.
“This was not a partisan report,” Rubio noted, adding that Liu “intentionally misled me in my opinion…about what was going on behind the scenes regarding all of this.”
“I don’t think the facts are exactly what you described, and I think it’s important to distinguish between the technical details of facilitating implementation of the JCPOA and welcoming Iran more broadly into the U.S. financial community. Neither I nor I have taken any action that would do that.”
“Banks and governments are coming to him,” Leo told Rubio [him] Saying, “We want you to do” exactly what that is [Rubio] described.”
“We didn’t do that,” Liu said. He added: “What we did is we said exactly what I said in response to the senior member. We told them which sanctions had been lifted, which sanctions remained in place and we told them to be careful, and Iran got the message we were saying from that.” People don’t deal with them, and that’s why they imposed sanctions on me.”
Some Democrats took issue with Republicans’ characterization of Liu’s character.
“Challenging your character, saying you lied when you didn’t, and calling a partisan report a ‘bipartisan report’ when it wasn’t, is unfair to you,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.
The early stages of the session included three separate outbursts by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, whom we escorted out of the room after interrupting the proceedings.
Within moments of Liu’s confirmation hearing beginning, a protester in the room interrupted Cardin’s comments by calling for a ceasefire in the region.
After Cardin warned against “political games,” the demonstrator stood up and appeared to answer: “Now is not the time to play political games! How many more bombs should we drop on Gaza?”
“How many more children have to be killed? Our families are dying. We need a ceasefire now,” the man said. He raised a banner reading, “Ceasefire now.”
Moments later, a separate protester stood up and shouted, “You need to stop the genocide in Palestine. Palestine needs its freedom.”
Many Senate Democrats spoke of the importance of urging Israel to take a humanitarian approach to eradicating Hamas.
The senator said: “Hamas started this terrible war against civilians, but all Palestinians are not Hamas, and all Gazans are not Hamas, and the broader humanitarian challenge in Gaza will not serve Israel’s interests, will be devastating for the Palestinians, and will not serve the interests of the region.” Tim Kaine said. “We must do everything we can towards our ally Israel to take the fight to the perpetrator of the crime.”
Liu agreed that a humanitarian approach was the right approach, but emphasized that Biden referred to Israel’s right to self-defense, and acknowledged the possibility of some civilian casualties.
“I don’t think the standard can reach zero,” Liu said.
Israel has suffered the deaths of at least 1,400 people since Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health. At least 3,478 deaths occurred in Gaza during the same period, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will then hold a vote on whether to advance Liu’s nomination to the Senate. If all the Democrats stick together, there will be nothing Senate Republicans can do to prevent Liu from eventually being confirmed for office.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com