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Jewish Journal

Hagel reassures Jewish leaders on Iran, Israel’s edge

by Ron Kampeas, JTA

January 22, 2013 | 9:27 am

President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel at the White House on Jan. 7. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel at the White House on Jan. 7. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

Chuck Hagel in a meeting with Jewish organizational leaders affirmed his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge.

"Sen. Hagel met with the leadership of several major American Jewish organizations at the White House as a part of his ongoing outreach," said a Jan. 22 statement from Hagel's office at Georgetown University, where President Obama's defense secretary nominee is a professor.

"He discussed his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, including his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and to sustaining the Obama Administration’s unprecedented security cooperation with Israel. He appreciated the opportunity to have a constructive, informed and wide-ranging discussion."

A four-sentence statement on Jan. 21 issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations described the Jan. 18 meeting as "an important opportunity for a serious and thorough discussion of key issues of importance to all of us."

The statement, which also noted the presence at the meeting of Vice President Joe Biden as well as the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, did not further elaborate.

The meeting came days after Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, conferred with top Jewish Democrats and apologized for a 2006 comment in which he described the "Jewish lobby" as "intimidating." He also reassured the lawmakers that despite his past skepticism of some sanctions on Iran and wariness of a military strike to keep the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he now was on board with Obama's stances on those issues.

Hagel in his conversation with the Jewish Democrats also said he was a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship and elaborated on the context of his past criticisms of Israel.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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