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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Israeli-Palestinian tensions “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel,” Petraeus added. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR [area of operations].”Skip to next paragraph
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For this reason, Petraeus had reportedly lobbied to make Israel part of his area of responsibility at US Central Command, rather than under the auspices of US European Command, where it had been and where it remains today, as the move was not approved.
At the time Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement calling Petraeus’ testimony “dangerous” by “blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived US favoritism for Israel.”
Hagel has also advocated dialogue with Iran, which the US and Israel suspect of developing nuclear weapons, and with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist faction that governs the Gaza Strip and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, and made it clear that he believes the Pentagon budget is bloated. He has also been sharply critical of America’s wars of the past decade.
Hagel’s push for dialogue is a product of his infantry experience – he was a decorated enlisted soldier in Vietnam who served alongside his brother – “and that helped him to be in a sense a reluctant warrior,” says retired Lt. General David Barno, who commanded the war in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and served with Hagel on panels about the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The firefights Hagel survived instilled in him a caution that comes with having seen “a lot of young men pay the ultimate price,” Mr. Barno says. “He sees that military forces have to be kept available, but also that we need to be talking to all of our adversaries. That’s not a sign of surrender and weakness – that’s just living in a world where you look at all of the options.”
Hagel’s stance on Israel has been subject to “distortion,” Barno adds. “He’s been a very strong supporter of Israel in legislation over the years – I think he’s probably getting some unfair critiques out there.”