Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Lining Up on Both Sides of Chuck Hagel Debate

A leading pro-Israel political action committee urged its members to prevent Chuck Hagel from being nominated defense secretary, while a group of former U.S. diplomats endorsed him.

“The most outstanding thing about the Senator’s record on the threats America and its allies face is the consistent solicitude he has shown toward Iran and the terrorist organizations and states it funds: Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria,” reads the model letter sent to members by NORPAC, the New Jersey-based committee.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, has expressed doubts about the efficacy of Iran sanctions and did not join other senators in signing onto letters backed by pro-Israel and Jewish groups.

He backed a number of bills isolating Iran and terrorist groups but also supported dialogue with Iran and such groups.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a group that has attacked President Obama’s Israel record, is running an anti-Hagel ad on cable networks in the Washington D.C. area called “Not an Option.”

A number of pro-Israel groups and figures have indicated opposition to President Obama’s reported consideration of Hagel for defense secretary. But dovish Israel policy groups such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now have rallied to his side, and he was praised by some Jewish former colleagues, such as Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Meanwhile, nine former diplomats who have worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations published an open letter defending Hagel.

“Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency,” said the letter, posted on the Foreign Policy magazine website and including as signatories five former ambassadors to Israel. “He has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy – such as: a strong NATO and Atlantic partnership; a commitment to the security of Israel, as a friend and ally; a determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the defense of human rights as a core principle of America’s role in the world.”

The former envoys to Israel are Edward Djerejian, William Harrop, Daniel Kurtzer, Samuel Lewis and Thomas Pickering. Another signatory is Nicholas Burns, an undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.