Chuck Hagel Talks About Israel and Iran

Pentagon Pick Talks to Senators Ahead of Hearings

Clearing the Air: Pentagon nominee Chuck Hagel spoke to lawmakers to clarify his views on the Mideast and Iran.
getty images
Clearing the Air: Pentagon nominee Chuck Hagel spoke to lawmakers to clarify his views on the Mideast and Iran.

By Reuters

Published January 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s pick to become the next U.S. defense secretary, has begun calling critics in the Senate in an attempt to clarify his views about how to deal with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas before his upcoming nomination hearing.

The decorated Vietnam veteran’s Republican credentials have done little to rally support with his party, which he publicly split with as a senator by opposing the Iraq war during the Bush administration.

Hagel’s private calls to lawmakers and efforts by supporters to defend him publicly are part of what is likely to be a hard-fought battle over his nomination. Opponents tried for weeks to dissuade Obama from choosing the former Nebraska senator.

One prominent senator, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, predicted even before his nomination that Hagel, if confirmed, would be “the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the State of Israel in our nation’s history.”

U.S. officials who have spoken with Hagel since he was nominated on Monday say he has been calling senators before confirmation hearings begin in the coming weeks. Current and former U.S. officials say he is particularly concerned with portrayals of his record on Iran. Critics accuse him of opposing sanctions and being satisfied with containing Tehran, as opposed to preventing it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

“He feels that who he is, what he stands for and what his attitudes are have been misrepresented and distorted,” said Dennis Ross, a former top Obama Middle East adviser.

“What he said to me very clearly was that … he deeply believes that Iran does need to be prevented from having the bomb and that he doesn’t believe in containment.”

By tradition, Cabinet nominees are expected to avoid public comment until their confirmation hearings.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, in an opinion piece entitled “Why I Can’t Support Hagel,” accused Hagel of failing to understand the threat from Iran and groups like Hamas.

One U.S. official who is familiar with the information Hagel is providing to members of the Senate defended Hagel’s approach to the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas. As a senator, Hagel decided not to join 88 other senators in a 2006 letter calling on the European Union to designate Lebanon-based Hez b ollah a terrorist organization.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hagel believes it is not appropriate for members of Congress to write foreign leaders and that they should write the president, instead. More important, the official said, was Hagel’s voting record.

“There were a number of pieces of legislation that actually called on Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization that he supported and voted for,” the official said.

On Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, the official said Hagel also felt his position was being misrepresented. Despite claims to the contrary by critics, Hagel d o es not support direct, unconditional engagement with Hamas and agrees it must first renounce violence, he said.

The officials declined to say which lawmakers Hagel has spoken with but said they included members of both parties. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has spoken with him and the two agreed to meet, McCain’s spokesman said.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, following two meetings with Hagel this week, on Thursday predicted that Hagel would ultimately be confirmed as his successor.

“In these confirmation battles, there are a lot of charges that will be out there,” Panetta said. “But ultimately, the truth prevails. And I think the truth in this case will mean that he’ll be confirmed.”


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!
  • "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.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • 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.