Some Jews and supporters of Israel voiced major concerns about the possible nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, taking to Twitter and the blogosphere this week to slam the Nebraska Republican.
“Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite,” a senior Republican Senate aide told The Weekly Standard. The aide continued, “Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is.”
The Times of Israel reported that “the nomination of Hagel would likely worry Israel supporters, who have criticized the former Republican senator for what they see as a chilly stance toward the Jewish state.”
The English-language Israeli publication cited Hagel’s past positions on issues including the second Lebanon War in 2006 and Israel’s dealings with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“Now that the election is over Barack Obama no longer has to appeal to supporters of Israel or haters of terrorism — so he is about to appoint former Senator Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense,” charged Jeff Dunetz at the blog Yid with Lid.
A top Israel advocate told The Daily Beast that “the pro-Israel community will view the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel in an extremely negative light. His record is unique in its animus towards Israel.”
Reports Thursday indicated Hagel is a likely pick for the top Pentagon position.
The Midwesterner has come under withering fire from some corners of the conservative and Jewish communities for his previous rhetoric and positions on Israel and Iran.
“He is one of the most hostile critics of Israel that has ever been in the Senate,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told the newspaper The Algemeiner.
At the blog Israel Matzav, another headline read: “Bad news for Israel: Obama wants Hagel at Defense.”
The piece then cited National Jewish Democratic Council talking points, which include Hagel’s refusal to “write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization” in 2006; that “in October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel;” and that in 2005, he “refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.”
“Hagel was one of the most consistently anti-Israel Sens in modern history,” tweeted conservative Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner. “Would be a great fit for Obama administration.”
Hawkish conservatives also noted support Hagel has received from some who have taken a critical approach to Israel.
“Hagel’s got Walt on board,” Jamie Weinstein of The Daily Caller tweeted, linking to a piece from Harvard professor Stephen Walt, who co-authored a controversial book on what he called the “Israel lobby.” “Now if he gets Leveretts & Michael Scheuer, he’ll score an anti-Israel all-star hat trick.”
Pamela Geller, writing at the conservative blog Atlas Shrugs, ran with the headline “Jew-hater for defense?”
At the White House Hanukkah party Thursday, according to a BuzzFeed report, Jewish leaders on both sides of the aisle expressed concern over a possible Hagel nod. The BuzzFeed story cited criticism of Hagel, dating back several years, that came from the National Jewish Democratic Council and its then-executive director, Ira Forman, who more recently oversaw Jewish outreach for the Obama reelection campaign. The Republican Jewish Coalition referenced that history on Twitter on Thursday.
“Cat got your tongue, @IraForman? ‘Forman declined to comment on Hagel’s possible nomination Thursday.’ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/13/the-hagel-haters.html …” the Coalition tweeted at Forman, linking to an article in which Forman skipped commenting on Hagel.
Also at issue: Hagel’s position on issues like Iran, a country constantly at odds with Israel and the United States over its nuclear program.
Hagel “sits on the board of a bank that is under investigation for allegedly violating United States sanctions on Iran,” the conservative Washington Free Beacon wrote Thursday.
Jackson Diehl, a foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post, tweeted a series of Hagel’s past positions on Middle East issues, some of which conservatives were quick to retweet.
“Hagel voted against Iran sanctions in 2004, 2007 and 2008. In 2009 he urged Obama to open talks with Hamas,” he offered. Another tweet read, “Chuck Hagel after meeting Hafez al Assad: ‘Peace comes through dealing with people.’ Did not vote for #Syria Accountability Act.”
Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine cheered the news that Ambassador Susan Rice is no longer in the running for the position of secretary of state — which shuffled Cabinet openings — but added, “On the other hand, if Chuck Hagel gets the nod to lead the Pentagon, we may all end up wishing that the White House had found someone other than Susan Rice to discuss Benghazi on television on that fateful Sunday.”
Other conservatives, however, did come to the defense of Hagel, a longtime Republican despite endorsing President Barack Obama in 2008.
“Chuck Hagel will be an outstanding SecDef,” tweeted John Weaver, a veteran of GOP campaigns including Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid. “The country will be fortunate if this is so.”
At The American Conservative, a publication that tends to oppose intervention, Daniel Larison offered a mixed assessment of Hagel, but one more positive than other conservatives did.
“The advantages are that Hagel has been less enthusiastic about using force overseas than many other Republicans that he served with in Congress, and as a veteran he has never been one to minimize or ignore the costs of armed conflict,” he wrote. “The disadvantages are that he did not oppose new foreign wars while he was in the Senate.”
Joshua Keating, an associate editor at Foreign Policy magazine, also argued that Hagel’s position on Iran is in line with that of the Obama administration.
“Hagel called for direct talks with Iran during the closing years of the Bush administration — as did Obama,” he wrote. “He now says Iran’s nukes pose a serious threat but that the GOP isn’t fully considering the consequences of military action — as do Obama and Panetta. If there’s a ‘signal’ being sent, it’s that the administration is sticking with the plan on Iran.”.