Chuck Hagel's Jewish Critics Relent After Nod

Mainstream Groups Won't Oppose Obama's PIck for Pentagon

Military Man: President Obama introduced ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel as a hard-headed patriot. He might have gained the upper hand in his battle to win confirmation as the next Pentagon chief.
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Military Man: President Obama introduced ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel as a hard-headed patriot. He might have gained the upper hand in his battle to win confirmation as the next Pentagon chief.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 08, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely seen as the lobbying group Hagel spoke about in his 2007 remarks referring to the “Jewish lobby” that has “intimidated lawmakers,” notably refrained from taking any stand, either public or private, regarding Hagel’s nomination.

“AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations,” said the lobby’s spokesman Marshall Wittmann in an email to the Forward. Capitol Hill sources confirmed that they had not heard from AIPAC on the issue.

“AIPAC’s perspective is that they need to work with the next defense secretary,” explained Steve Rosen, a former lobbyist with the group. “They can’t just look from a standpoint of how you feel about a nomination but also from the day after and how you learn to work with Hagel.” Rosen, who is a critic of Hagel, added that as Secretary of Defense, Hagel and his deputy and assistants will have significant influence on many issues the pro-Israel lobby deals with daily, including foreign aid, procurement, military cooperation and defense technology.

For those following the work of the pro-Israel lobby, this is standard procedure. AIPAC, both due to its bipartisan nature and because of its long term interest in working with top cabinet members involved in foreign policy and national security on issues relating to Israel, prefers to sit out on explosive debates of this kind.

Other Jewish groups have also relaxed their criticism, stressing the need to move forward rather than dwell on whether Hagel is worthy of the post. The Anti Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, in a statement issued Monday said that while Hagel would not have been his first choice, “I respect the President’s prerogative.”

Foxman told the Forward on Monday he did not change his views on Hagel, since he had never flat-out opposed the nomination.

“We never said we were going to fight him,” he said, adding that “from the moment that [Obama] announced it, this is a different reality.”


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