Will Israel Block Hagel as Defense Secretary?
by James M. Wall
Former Nebraska Senator Charles (Chuck) Hagel (above right) may be nominated by President Barack Obama to be secretary of defense.
The President is known to like his old Senate colleague, a Republican who, like Obama, considered running for president in 2008. Unlike Obama, Hagel decided not to run.
Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, would provide Obama with a Republican in the upper echelon of his second-term cabinet, a nice touch in a season when the American movie-going public is discovering Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 “team of rivals” cabinet. The script for the film, Lincoln, is derived, in part, from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
What could possibly derail Chuck Hagel’s nomination? He meets all the qualifications in personal conduct, political experience, and friendship with the president and colleagues in the U.S. Senate.
None of this matters to the pro-Israel forces that have lined up with their attacks on Hagel. To them, the former Nebraska Senator does not meet the test of being “100 percent pro-Israel”. For the neo-conservatives, where Hagel is concerned, as Sherlock Holmes has said, “the game is on”.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank describes how vicously the neo-cons play their game. Milbank reported that neo-con guru, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, published a smear under the headline: “Senate aide: ‘Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.’ ”
In the posting, this anonymous aide went on to accuse Hagel of “the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is.” As evidence, the article included a quotation from Hagel referring to the “Jewish lobby.”
The Weekly Standard writes that it has “obtained a fact sheet circulating widely on Capitol Hill”. The fact sheet, according to the Standard, “details the record on a number of issues of former GOP senator Chuck Hagel, a leading candidate to be nominated by President Obama as the next secretary of defense”.
The fact sheet focuses on issues neo-cons find unacceptable in a cabinet member. Of course, in any rational debate on Middle East politics, these same points could be seen as a positive reason to place Chuck Hagel in Obama’s cabinet.
Here is the National Review’s “fact sheet” with its reasons to reject Hagel:
1. In November 2001, Hagel was one of 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter requesting President Bush not meet with Yassir Arafat until forces linked to Arafat’s Fatah party ceased attacks on Israel.
2. In December 2005, Hagel was one of 27 Senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bush requesting the U.S. pressure the Palestinians to ban terrorist groups from participating in legislative elections.
3. In July 2006, Hagel called on President Bush to demand an immediate cease-fire when Israel retaliated against Hezbollah after the terrorist group attacked Israel, abducted two IDF soldiers, and fired rockets at Israeli civilians.
4. In August 2006, Hagel was only one of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter asking the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Politico used the headline, “some Jews” object to Hagel, to summarize the case against Hagel. Some samples:
The Times of Israel reported that “the nomination of Hagel would likely worry Israel supporters, who have criticized the former Republican senator for what they see as a chilly stance toward the Jewish state.” The English-language Israeli publication cited Hagel’s past positions on issues including the second Lebanon War in 2006 and Israel’s dealings with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. . . . .
A top Israel advocate told The Daily Beast that “the pro-Israel community will view the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel in an extremely negative light. His record is unique in its animus towards Israel.”
“He is one of the most hostile critics of Israel that has ever been in the Senate,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told the newspaper The Algemeiner.
Media responses to this onslaught from the neo-con right, have not been plentiful. Just in time, however, John Judis, writing in The New Republic, arrives with this gift for those of us who find the pro-Israel attacks on Hagel to be both abhorent and utterly without merit.
He starts by identifying the forces aligned against Hagel:
The stories of Hagel’s looming nomination have aroused intense opposition–but almost exclusively from individuals and organizations that back Israel’s right-wing government and find Hagel’s views on Israel repellent.
These critics include the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is funded by gambling mogul and greater-Israel proponent Sheldon Adelson; the Zionist Organization of America, which also opposes a two-state solution; and a sundry collection of fellow travellers, including the Weekly Standard, Commentary, and the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin.
Judis, a veteran reporter and columnist, comes to the Hagel story with sufficient information to reject the anti-Hagel uninformed smears from the neo-conservative right. He writes:
I know something about Hagel. I spent several months talking to him and to people who know him for a profile I wrote for The New Republic in 2007 when he was considering running for president. I can’t confidently say that he would make a good or great secretary of defense, but I can say with confidence that Hagel is an honorable man who served with distinction as a senator and that his foreign policy views, including his positions on Israel and its American lobby, are, if anything, a reason to support rather than oppose his nomination. . . . .
Unlike some Prairie Republicans, Hagel was a committed internationalist who saw NATO, the United Nations the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund as essential to American foreign policy. He wanted the United States to exert influence internationally, but by working with other countries.
This is the man President Obama has hinted he wants as his next secretary of defense. He may or may not make the appointment. If he does, the forces that want cabinet officials “100 percent pro-Israel” will step up their attacks.
These forces will be described as the Israel Lobby. But perhaps the time has come to ask, are we doing a favor to the “Israel Lobby” by granting them a U.S. “lobby” status?
In the American political system, a lobby is a U.S. group that pushes decision-makers to do what the lobby believes is best on a particular issue.The National Rifle Association (NRA), for example, has long used its political power to block laws that curb what the NRA and its members believe is a God-given right for American citizens to own and shoot fire arms, including assault military weapons.
That belief will be intensively debated in the next few months in the aftermath of the mass school slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut. The NRA now has the burden of arguing its political case against the backdrop of Newtown.
That is what lobbies do; they argue their cause. Some lobbies hang on to their power too long, as was the case with the Tobacco Lobby, that only now has become something of a pariah in American life.
It is important to keep in mind, however, as we consider a congressional debate over guns or tobacco, that our gun laws and our restriction on the sale of and advertising of tobacco, apply only in the U.S. They are domestic issues.
The political discourse over the President’s cabinet is very much a domestic issue. Let us be clear about this; input from a foreign power has no place in these decisions.
When Israel’s “myrmidons” (myrmidon: A faithful follower who carries out orders unquestioningly) infiltrate every segment of our American culture, including our religious institutions, and our media, academic and political structures, they are exclusively promoting the interest not of this country, but of a foreign power, the state of Israel.
An Obama nomination and Senate confirmation of Chuck Hagel would be a major step in breaking the grip of Israel’s myrmidons in this country.
Pre-Christmas Note: Many readers have been returning to a link to a 2010 Wall Writings posting, Behind a 30 Foot Prison Wall, “Merry Christmas” Becomes a Media Lie. To revisit the link, click on the posting’s title.
The photo at top is from Reuters.
Filed under: Media, Middle East Politics, Obama, Politics and Elections | 19 Comments