Chuck Hagel’s home state Jewish newspaper is calling for a “wait and see” attitude on the controversial Pentagon pick, saying it hasn’t been convinced by either supporters or opponents.
Annette van de Kamp-Wright, editor of The Jewish Press of Omaha, wrote that Jews should “give the man a chance,” even as she pointed out that Hagel has occasionally made “clumsy” statements about Israel and Jews.
“In case you’re wondering what I really think of Chuck Hagel: I don’t know,” van de Kamp-Wright wrote. “And to be honest, I’m comfortable with that.”
“For goodness’ sake, it’s not as if Obama is appointing David Duke,” she added, referring to the Ku Klux Klansman-turned-politician.
The column, titled “The trouble with Chuck,” is the latest effort to sort out Hagel’s record and to assess claims by opponents that he is either anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, or both. The paper is run by the Jewish federation in Omaha, which has a community of about 6,500 Jews.
Former Republican appointee Elliot Abrams has publicly stated that he believes Hagel has “a problem with Jews,” and cited what he described as a strained relationship with Jews in his home state as ammunition. But Jewish leaders in Omaha, both supporters and opponents, refuted the anti-Semitism claim in interviews with the Forward.
Surprisingly, van de Kamp-Wright offered no local insight from Hagel’s interaction with Jews during his long tenure in Nebraska politics, including two terms as a Republican U.S. senator from the staunchly GOP state.
She argued that Hagel’s positions would largely be shaped by the White House’s policies and would likely not veer too far from President Obama’s goals.
“We can trust that Hagel won’t go rogue; he will represent the Obama administration and its current policies towards the Middle East,” she wrote.
The editor cautioned that if Jews, both in Omaha and elsewhere, see Hagel deviating from support of Israel, they will have ample opportunity to speak out.
“If those policies change, and we suddenly find there’s tangibly less U.S. support for Israel, there will be plenty of opportunity to scream then,” she wrote. “Right now, we should all calm down and just breathe.”