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Washington — “And he’ll have to answer about why he thought it was a good idea to directly negotiate with Hamas and why he objected to the European Union declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “He’s been a friend, he has a stellar military record, but these comments disturb a lot of people.”
After leaving office, Hagel urged Obama to open talks with Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction
Senator John McCain of Arizona insisted “we would review his entire record” but declined to “make a judgment until he’s nominated.”
Ironically, a Hagel nomination might be better received by Democrats - though they too might be wary of his contrarian reputation.
Many Republicans consider Hagel suspect. He was an early dissenter on the Iraq war - an issue that helped Obama rise to prominence - and crossed the aisle to endorse the president in his successful re-election bid this year.
On top of that, since leaving the Senate after two terms, he has been a vocal critic of his own party’s fiscal policies.
Obama is said to feel comfortable with Hagel. The two traveled together to the Middle East during the 2008 campaign.
He currently co-chairs Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and his confirmation would put the Pentagon under a decorated Vietnam War veteran and give Obama’s Cabinet a bipartisan cast.
Christopher Preble, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote that Hagel would be an excellent choice and would help keep the U.S. military from undertaking further “quixotic nation-building missions.”
But high-profile opposition to Hagel’s possible nomination is growing. Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Washington Post that his record “relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling.”
Josh Block, president of The Israel Project, a pro-Israel group that describes itself as a nonpartisan educational organization, said Hagel’s positions were “well outside the mainstream Democratic and Republican consensus.”
Some of the negative buzz surrounding Hagel has made its way into Israeli media. “Hagel is a Republican with a problematic voting record on Israel,” The Jerusalem Post said on Monday.
Also in the mix for the Pentagon job are Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, and Ashton Carter, the current deputy defense secretary.