Chuck Hagel: why his candidacy for Defense post is losing altitude
Critics of Chuck Hagel's potential candidacy have focused on remarks he made years ago about Israel, Iran, and Hamas. Some even called him anti-Semitic, a charge branded as outrageous, even by other critics.
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"There's no such thing as a Jewish lobby," McCain said when asked about Hagel’s comments. "There's an Armenian lobby, there's not a Jewish lobby. There's an Israeli lobby. It's called AIPAC, very influential."Skip to next paragraph
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In Hagel’s defense, meanwhile, some Jewish supporters have begun to step forward to call the anti-Semitic label not just unfair, but slanderous.
“He’s one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in American policy today when it comes to national security matters, and I think the president would be very well-served by a veteran with a deep grasp of both the potential and the limitations of military power,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street, a pro-Israel liberal Jewish lobby group.
“The notion that Chuck Hagel is anti-Israel is ludicrous. The notion that he is anti-Semitic is slanderous. He may have used one poor choice of words, but that doesn’t make someone subject to these labels,” Mr. Ben-Ami adds.
“He has a several decade career of votes and writings and statements that as a whole demonstrate the commitment that he has to Israel.”
That commitment is not, Hagel himself has noted, unconditional. "I'm a United States senator. I support Israel,” he said in the 2006 interview. “But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I'll do that."
Hagel has also called for more efforts to be made to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a move that also irked some critics. Until that happens, he said six years ago, “mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel, and across the Middle East.”
In March, 2010, while he was the head of US Central Command, which was running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas where US forces operate.