President Barack Obama and former Senator Chuck Hagel attending an intelligence meeting at the White House, October 2009. (Photo: Reuters)
Chuck Hagel has been quite blunt in the past in questioning the supposed influence of the fearsome pro-Israel "Jewish lobby” in Washington, and would probably view the battle waged against him as further proof that he was right – that Israel’s interests are put before America’s even on such matters as the choice of the right man to be in charge of defending America. He’d be wrong – as he is on most matters related to Israel. I've written an article for the IHT-NYT on Hagel's Israel problem – here's one paragraph from it, and you can read it in full here.
The response from officials in Jerusalem to the Hagel possibility falls into one of two categories: puzzled disbelief or an I-told-you-so smirk. The disbelievers find it hard to comprehend that Obama would want to appoint such a controversial personality to the job, thereby almost ensuring clashes with Israel over Iran and the Palestinian issue. In fact, some of them still expect Obama not to make the appointment. The smirkers are, well, smirking. These are the Israelis who never bought the Obama-is-a-friend-of-Israel line, and they see in a possible Hagel appointment proof that they were right all along. This, they think, would be Obama’s revenge for the supposed sins of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If you want to know some more on the Hagel/Israel angle, here's a quick guide:
Was Hagel making anti-Semitic comments?
No – Ali Gharib, Andrew Sullivan, Stephen Walt
Yes, or pretty close to – Ari Lieberman, Abe Foxman, a senior Senate aide.
Who makes up the opposition?
Neocons, writes Milbank.
Individuals and organizations that back Israel’s right-wing government, writes Judis.
Jewish leaders, writes Mark Landler.
The cool-headed editorial view:
Christian Science Monitor: "this would suggest a return to Mr. Obama’s attempts early in his first presidency to engage America’s adversaries abroad rather than isolate or harm them".
Washington Post: "not the right choice".
The hot-headed overstatement:
Hagel is "the new Eisenhower"
Introducing the alternative:
Democrats speak out against Hagel as Flournoy’s star rises
(BTW: if you don't quite understand the headline of this post – it's a takeoff of my book)