is a former Republican senator representing Nebraska. Hagel has been co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
Although originally Hagel voted in favor of the Iraq war, he later became an outspoken Republican critic of the Bush administration's occupation of Iraq. If Hagel is chosen as defense secretary, he may oppose the Obama administration's military expansion into the Asia Pacific region. Hagel has written that
“wary of any strategy that smacks of ‘economic, political, and military containment’ of China: ‘this kind of belligerence would be a disaster for our two nations and for the world…. such a policy would fail."
The pro-Israel lobby is most unhappy with the possible nomination of Hagel as defense secretary. A senior Republican aide said:
“Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite. 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.”
Surely, many people, think that the Israeli lobby has an inordinate amount of influence on U.S. foreign policy. It may be just the truth.
Among the comments that Hagel did make i
s one for a book by Aaron Miller in which Hagel said:
“The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”
Perhaps the anti-Semitic charge comes from Hagel's use of the term "Jewish" rather than Israeli. However, the substance of the statement may be true but it is not appropriate to say it.
Others who are no less pro-Israel have defended Hagel. Daniel Kurtzer,
US ambassador to Israel under Bush said of Hagel:
“I found him in all the years I served, including as ambassador to Israel, to be a supporter of Israel and a man also ready to discuss very frankly with the Israelis the concerns we had about certain
When Hagel himself
was questioned on his position on Israel he said:
“Let me clear something up here if there’s any doubt in your mind. I’m a United States Senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is, I take an oath of office to the constitution of the United States. Not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel.”
Hagel has been critical of the Israel. In 2002 he wrote in the Washington Post that Palestinians could not be expected to make democratic reforms while “Israeli military occupation and settlement activity” continue, and that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace.” Hagel also demanded Bush call for an immediate ceasefire in its attacks upon Lebanon.
Hagel has views on terrorism that are much more pragmatic than ideological. He was opposed to defining Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and in 2009 he signed a letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas. Hagel took a similar pragmatic view on relations with Iran, urging the Bush administration to engage in direct and unconditional talks. According to Foreign Policy
“Hagel even flirts with the idea that an Iranian bomb wouldn’t be the end of the world."
If Hagel actually is chosen a the new defense minister it will show that Obama is actually capable of standing up to pressure for a more pro-Israel defense minster or one more hawkish on the war on terror.