WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has chosen a veteran diplomat, political insider, banking executive and Duluth native, Thomas Nides, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
The White House announced the pick Tuesday. If confirmed by the Senate, Nides will represent the Democratic administration in Israel at a time of political change for a key U.S. ally, with new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sworn in Monday to replace Benjamin Netanyahu.
"A lot changed yesterday and I am imagining that Prime Minister Bennett is going to be a lot more supportive of what the Biden Administration does," said Sam Kaplan, a Minneapolis attorney who served in the Obama administration as ambassador to Morocco from 2009-13.
Nides was deputy secretary of state for part of that time, and Kaplan said his fellow Minnesotan was reliable and always quick to help address high-level issues if then-Secretary Hillary Clinton was traveling. "Tom is fabulous — on top of the issues, prompt, thoughtful, very smart," Kaplan said.
Nides was born in Duluth in 1961. According to a 2011 story in the Duluth News Tribune, his late parents, a financial adviser and a teacher, were both well-known and active in the community. Nides graduated from Duluth East High School, where he convinced then-Vice President Walter Mondale to speak at graduation ceremonies.
Nides later worked for Mondale alongside Amy Klobuchar, now Minnesota's senior senator. They've known each other since college, Klobuchar said in a statement released by her office.
"I am confident that as ambassador, Tom will further the deep alliance between our two nations and our commitment to lasting prosperity in the region," Klobuchar said.
Minnesota Democrats have recently been divided over Israel, magnified by the violence between Israel and Hamas that broke out last month. Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar, critics of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, both declined immediate comment on Nides.
Republican Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents Duluth, congratulated Nides. "It is my hope that Mr. Nides provides our ally with an abundance of support as they continue to defend themselves from a number of threats," Stauber said.
After working on Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign, Nides held high-profile jobs in government and politics and at financial institutions, most recently as managing director and vice chairman at Morgan Stanley.
Patrick Condon • 612-673-4342