Now that Barack Obama has secured himself four more years in office reports have it that he is assessing his cabinet and considering retooling it. Many believe that current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is only going to stay on as long as he has to, and sources say candidates for replacing him are already being discussed. Chuck Hagel, former Republican senator from Nebraska and good friend of the President’s, is being mentioned as a top candidate according to Politico.
But the prospect of Hagel in such a high-level position may be a cause for concern for the state of Israel seeing as he has been accused of castigating the Jewish state while also downplaying the threat of its enemies.
“He is one of the most hostile critics of Israel that has ever been in the Senate,” Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America told The Algemeiner.
“There is only a handful of senators that have been openly hostile to Israel and Chuck Hagel is one of them,” he added.
“Chuck Hagel is very talented,” Aaaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson center, and former adviser to democratic and republican secretaries of state, told The Algemeiner “It would be an intriguing choice to consider, if the administration wants to reach across the aisle.”
“It is not an other worldly possibility,” he added, speculating on how realistic the possibility is, “whether or not he has the inside track, I couldn’t say, but the choice of Hagel is certainly a credible issue.”
In 2007 the Zionist Organization of America released a statement questioning Hagel’s stance towards Israel, noting that he “was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” that “In 2000 Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel,” and “In December 2005, Hagel was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authroity to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.”
In 2009 when President Obama named him as Co-Chair of his Federal Intelligence Advisory Board, Jewish leaders objected to his appointment.
Commenting on how the appointment might affect the already tense US-Israel relationship Aaron David Miller said, “If Hagel has that reputation, it would cause serious concerns in congress and the pro-Israel community, and at a time when the Iran threat looms.”
“There is a fair point here that Hagel’s appointment might cause concern, ” he added, “It doesn’t mean that he wont be best choice for the President, but it will add to the perception that the administration has decided to signal a more independent minded direction.”
“But we shouldn’t be surprised” concluded Mr. Klein, “because almost every appointment that Obama has made that effects Israel has been someone that is hostile to Israel.”