Monday, January 7, 2013

Haggling over Hagel

by Boaz Bismuth

All assessments point to Chuck Hagel becoming the next U.S. defense secretary. His resume is impressive, the military section (a decorated Vietnam veteran) no less so than the political one. 

Hagel was the first Republican from Nebraska to enter the Senate in 24 years. In 2002 he maintained his seat with 83 percent of the vote. What is there to worry about? 

In 2008, Hagel published a book, “America: Our Next Chapter,” in which he recommended that the U.S. adopt an independent foreign policy. Nor has he gone out of his way to please the Israelis. "I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator," he said when he was told that an attack on Iran would help Israel. In addition, he has refused to sign senatorial letters on subjects important to Israel and the AIPAC lobby group. 

"The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people [on Capitol Hill]," he was quoted as saying in Aaron David Miller's 2008 book, “The Much Too Promised Land.” Hagel is opposed to war with Iran and has even opposed imposing sanctions on the country. Meanwhile, he supports a dialogue with Tehran, as well as with the heads of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. No bombs and no sanctions. These are not the kind of ideas that sit well with Jerusalem. 

From Israel's point of view, this is a problematic appointment. Harvard Professor Stephen Walt writes in his blog: "The real meaning of the Hagel affair is what it says about the climate inside Washington. Simply put, the question is whether supine and reflexive support for all things Israeli remains a prerequisite for important policy positions here in the Land of the Free." 

With Obama in the White House, Kerry in the State Department and Hagel in the Pentagon, America seems intent on continuing to lose stature in the world. Hagel believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict destabilizes the Middle East. Let's hope there are people in the Pentagon who can point out Iran to him from time to time, if not in aerial photos, then at least on the map. 

Boaz Bismuth


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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