Rex Tillerson will be Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, the president-elect tweeted this morning, setting off a new round of condemnations from Jewish groups.
Jewish leaders are joining senators on both sides of the aisle in raising concerns about the Exxon Mobil CEO, who has close ties to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
While mainstream Republicans, and even some Democrats, have cheered some of Trump’s Cabinet picks, Tillerson appears to be in for a rough trek to confirmation.
Republican senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, have already spoken out against his nomination.
“I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was, but I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me,” McCain said in an interview on Fox News on Saturday.
Jewish groups are joining the pile-on.
Morton Klein, who is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America and has been supportive of Trump, told the Forward on Monday that the nomination of an oil executive “concerned” him, arguing that oil executives are generally oriented toward the Arab world, and less friendly to Israel.
In statements Tuesday morning, left-wing Jewish groups added their own concerns, raising questions about Tillerson’s attitudes on human rights and global warming.
“Tillerson’s nomination is deeply disturbing, as he is the leader of one of the world’s largest energy corporations — which has polluted the global environment, developed close relationships with dictators, and used its resources over 40 years to suppress climate science,” said Robert Bank, president and CEO of American Jewish World Service. “A U.S. secretary of state must stand up for democratic values and civil and political rights globally, and Tillerson’s record portends the opposite.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted the pic as a dangerous leap of faith.
“Trump continues to double down on his mixed record when it comes to issues the pro-Israel community cares most about,” the group said. “At best, Tillerson is an unknown quantity when it comes to Israel; at worse his affinity for Putin and business dealings with some of Israel’s worst enemies adds to the growing list of fears for supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
In a Monday evening statement to the Forward, the left-wing pro-Israel group J Street asked senators to vet Tillerson carefully.
“We expect senators to question him vigorously to determine whether his views are consistent with decades of bipartisan U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and with upholding our country’s international commitments, such as the successful nuclear agreement with Iran,” the organization said.
And the leftist group Jewish Voice for Peace said, in its own statement, that Tillerson’s nomination would make the grooup’s own work more important.
“His priority is cozying up to dictators in order to get access to oil, rather than holding political leaders and corporations accountable for human rights abuses,” the group said in its statement. “With Tillerson at the helm of the State Department, corporate accountability campaigns, including the tactics of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, will be more important than ever.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has yet to make a public comment on the Tillerson nomination. A spokesman told the Forward that the group has a long-standing policy of not commenting on on presidential appointments.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.