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US envoy to Israel visits Western Wall ahead of departure

The diplomat offered a "moving prayer for world peace," the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said.

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides offers a prayer at the Western Wall, July 12, 2023. Credit: Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides offers a prayer at the Western Wall, July 12, 2023. Credit: Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

Some 20 months after his official confirmation as Washinton’s envoy to Israel, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Nides this week ended his tenure in the Jewish state.

Coming full circle, the diplomat on Wednesday paid a final visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, where he offered a “moving prayer for world peace.”

In December 2021, shortly before presenting his credentials to Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Nides attended a Hanukkah celebration at the holy site, where he joined Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch in lighting the seventh holiday candle.

“During his tenure as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, [Nides] visited the Western Wall on dozens of occasions and participated in many events. The ambassador saw the Western Wall as a significant place and a spiritual center for the Jewish people, and he cared deeply about its development,” the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement.

Citing personal reasons, Nides announced his departure in May, noting that he had been away from his family for over 500 days. “We will all miss having him represent us in Israel but I know he is looking forward to some well-deserved time with his family,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the press at the time.

Over the course of his two-year posting, President Biden’s ambassador worked with three different prime ministers: Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.

Earlier this month, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen gifted Nides with a diplomatic passport in appreciation of the latter’s service. The inscription in the document reads: “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, a bridge between nations and people, heading back home with a mission to bring our message to the United States.”

Yet Nides’ tenure hasn’t been free of controversy. Nides made waves soon after he arrived in Israel when he announced that he would not visit Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. More specifically, he slammed “the idea of settlement growth, which infuriates me, when they do things that just infuriate the situation both in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

In February, he weighed in on the government’s judicial reform plan, saying, “We’re telling the prime minister—as I tell my kids—’pump the brakes, slow down, try to get a consensus, bring the parties together.'” The comments earned a rebuke from Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, who told Nides, “slam the breaks on yourself and mind your own business.”

This week, in remarks that Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis criticized as “disrespectful,” the outgoing ambassador once again expressed concerns about Netanyahu’s legal reform initiative.

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