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Chuck Hagel Reassures Jewish Leaders in Meeting

In a meeting with Jewish leaders, Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s defense secretary nominee, affirmed his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nulcear weapon and to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.

“Sen. Hagel met with the leadership of several major American Jewish organizations at the White House as a part of his ongoing outreach,” said a statement Tuesday from Hagel’s office at Georgetown University, where he is a professor.

“He discussed his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, including his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and to sustaining the Obama Administration’s unprecedented security cooperation with Israel,” the statement continued. “He appreciated the opportunity to have a constructive, informed and wide-ranging discussion.”

A four-sentence statement Monday issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations described the Jan. 18 meeting as “an important opportunity for a serious and thorough discussion of key issues of importance to all of us.”

The statement, which also noted the presence at the meeting of Vice President Joe Biden as well as the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, did not further elaborate.

The meeting came days after after Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, conferred with top Jewish Democrats and apologized for a 2006 comment in which he described the “Jewish lobby” as “intimidating” and reassured them that despite his past skepticism of some sanctions on Iran and wariness of a military strike to keep it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he was now on board with President Obama’s postures on those issues.

Hagel, in those conversations with Jewish Democrats, also said he was a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship although he did not withdraw past criticisms of Israel.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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