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.
getty images
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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

Foxman, who was widely referred to as the first Jewish leader to speak out against Hagel, stating that the Nebraska Senator’s comments on the Jewish lobby “border on anti-Semitism”, explained he did not accuse Hagel of being anti-Semitic. “In the world we live in, one cannot be nuanced,” he said.

The only mainstream Jewish group to actively address the Senate on Hagel has been the American Jewish Committee, which in a letter urged Senators to “fully probe” Hagel.

One veteran pro-Israel lobbyist noted that history has shown that early anxiety about candidates for cabinet positions has at times proven to be unfounded. Such was the case with George Schultz and with Warren Christopher, two former secretaries of state initially feared to be anti-Israel due to their business ties with the Arab world. Both turned out to be strong supporters of Israel. On the flip side, Casper Weinberger, a Reagan administration nominee that did not raise any concerns with the pro-Israel lobby, turned out to be the most problematic defense secretary in the eyes of Israelis and their supporters in the United States.

Hagel’s candidacy for the top Pentagon position was leaked to the press nearly a month ago, allowing critics to dominate the field before an official announcement was made. Over the weekend, the White House sprang into action, reaching out to Jewish leaders of major organizations in a set of phone calls informing them of the upcoming announcement. Calls were made by White House chief of staff Jack Lew, the administration’s most senior Jewish official who is well regarded by Jewish leaders, and by top advisors on the national security team including Denis McDounough, Tony Blinken and Ben Rhodes.

“We have an ongoing dialogue with the Jewish community on a range of issues, including this one,” said a White House official. “We continue to underscore that the President’s unprecedented support for Israel’s security will continue under the next Secretary of Defense.”

In the conversations, described by one Jewish activist as “a courtesy call,” members of the White House team spoke about Hagel’s qualities as a leader able to shape the Pentagon’s future and stressed that President Obama is the one who makes foreign policy decisions.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.