Senate Republicans may oppose Hagel nomination
The rumored nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense may be in trouble. Senate Republicans are signalling they may oppose his nomination based on his anti-Israel views.
Asked about Hagel's 2008 statement that the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here [in Washington, D.C.]," South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said Hagel will "have to answer for that comment" if he is nominated.
"And he'll have to answer about why he thought it was a good idea to directly negotiate with Hamas and why he objected to the European Union declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization," continued Graham, a member of the Armed Services committee. "I think he'll have to answer all those questions."
Asked if he'd oppose Hagel's nomination from the start, Graham said he would not. "I want to listen to what he has to say," Graham said. "I like Chuck. He's been a friend. He has a stellar military record. But these comments disturb a lot of people and he'll have to answer those questions."
John McCain of Arizona said he "strongly disagree[s]" with Hagel's comments on the "Jewish lobby."
"I know of no 'Jewish lobby,'" McCain said. "I know that there's strong support for Israel here. I know of no 'Jewish lobby.' I hope he would identify who that is."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Marco Rubio of Florida called references to a Jewish lobby "inaccurate."
"I don't agree with that statement," Rubio said. "If he is nominated, there'll be a hearing. His entire public record and all his public pronouncements will be reviewed as a part of that process. And we'll move on from there."
I realize it's a cause for concern to my Jewish friends that the idea of a "Jewish lobby" smacks of anti-Semitism but really, AIPAC is hardly a benevolent society like the Elks or a disinterested observer when it comes to Israel. The problem with Hagel, Mearsham, and others in Washington is that they see Jewish organizations as having a sinister and overwhelming influence on policy. That simply isn't true and raising such issues does indeed brand one as at the least, unfriendly to Israel, and at worst, an anti-Semite.
Hagel, an old Washington hand, will probably be able to finesse the issue of his animus toward Israel in his confirmation hearings. But his nomination certainly doesn't bode well for Israel during the next four years.