These Dem Activists Want To Save Biden's USAID Nominee Who Criticized Israel Peace Accords

Tamara Cofman Wittes / Getty Images
July 9, 2022

A group of Democratic consultants, think-tankers, and activists is soliciting signatures for a letter to the U.S. Senate defending President Joe Biden's embattled USAID nominee Tamara Cofman Wittes and arguing that she is a strong supporter of the Abraham Accords — a peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that she previously belittled.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), an activist group that bills itself as pro-Israel, is circulating the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon and is expected to be submitted next week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Jewish group has a spotty track record on calling out anti-Israel members of its own party and once endorsed a candidate who claimed the Jewish state was not a democracy.

"We write today to convey our strong support for Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes's nomination to serve as assistant administrator for the Middle East at the United States Agency for International Development," said the group.

The letter is a signal Democrats are concerned that Wittes's stance on the Abraham Accords—Israel's diplomatic agreement with the United Arab Emirates—could hurt her chances of confirmation. Some of the Democrats who signed on to the letter are the same ones who stepped up to save Biden Pentagon nominee Colin Kahl after Republicans expressed concerns about Kahl's involvement in crafting the Iran Nuclear Deal and his incendiary partisan Twitter posts.

Wittes in 2020 promoted articles denouncing the Abraham Accords on social media and cautioned other Arab countries against signing similar agreements, the Washington Free Beacon first reported last month.

But she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she supports the accords, a position that prompted skepticism from Republicans.

"I get that that's the right political answer to say now. But it's not what you said then," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) during a hearing.

The letter defending Wittes was also signed by Dan Shapiro, a former Obama administration official and executive at the Biden-linked foreign consulting firm WestExec. The company, which helped U.S. universities dodge Pentagon restrictions while soliciting donations from China, is owned by Teneo, a foreign lobbying firm that has an office in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The letter was also signed by Jenna Ben-Yehuda, the president and CEO of the Truman National Security Project, a think tank closely aligned with the Democratic Party whose board once included Hunter Biden. Another signer is Halie Soifer, the CEO of the JDCA and a former adviser to Kamala Harris.

Shapiro and Soifer also helped organize a letter defending Kahl during his rocky confirmation hearings in 2021. Republicans expressed deep concerns about Kahl's role in crafting the Obama administration's Iran deal, as well as his partisan Twitter posts that went after Republicans.

Kahl was narrowly confirmed by a party-line vote in April 2021, four months before the Biden administration's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.