What Message Does Obama’s Potential Cabinet Send to Israel?

December 17, 2012 3:18 pm 2 comments

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Photo: U.S. Senate.

There are two critical foreign policy-related Cabinet positions, and there will soon be new names offered by President Barack Obama to fill both roles. If Obama picks former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary Defense and current Massachusetts Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State, what message is he sending Israel?

For Secretary of State, Kerry’s nomination seems likely. Kerry has chaired the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee and has very good relations with Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Both Kerry and McCain are, of course, failed former presidential candidates and Vietnam veterans.

With regard to Israel, Kerry is a conventional Democrat. When he ran for president, his campaign issued statements suggesting he was Israel’s best friend in Washington, an exaggeration to be sure, but par for the course for a presidential nominee. More problematic has been Kerry’s consistently bad judgment as a senator on foreign policy matters, and earlier in his anti-war days.

In a lengthy interview with Charlie Rose in 2011 on the subject of U.S.-Israel relations, Kerry stayed on script as far as Obama’s support for Israel (strong), the president’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu (good), the need for a two-state solution, how opposition to Israel settlements in the West Bank has been a constant theme for several U.S presidents, how everyone knows what a final stage deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians would look like (the Clinton parameters from 2000), how demographic changes may force Israel’s hand (meaning of course that Israel is not now doing enough to promote peace), and how there is a closing window for successful peace talks to occur. This litany of conventional wisdom is repeated so often by so many people in the foreign policy establishment that most of them may actually think it is true.

Kerry added one personal touch in the Charlie Rose interview, a reflection of his many visits to and warm relations with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Other than Vogue Magazine editor Ann Wintour (herself a potential pick for U.S Ambassador to Britain or France), it is safe to say that no one has invested more than Kerry in the nonsense of Assad’s desire to reform Syria and make peace with Israel (achievable if only Israel agreed to return the Golan). Now, following the slaughter of tens of thousands of Syrians by Assad in a desperate attempt to stay in power, Kerry has gone quiet on the Syrian front.

Kerry may be uninspiring and has often been wrong on many matters, but the J Street crowd in the United States is not overly enthused with him, because they do not think he has been tough enough in attacking Israel over its settlements.

The rumored pick for Secretary of Defense, former Republican senator Hagel, is a different story entirely. Hagel has drawn enthusiastic praise and support for “not being a doormat for the ‘Israel Lobby,’” a comment offered by Steven Walt, a co-author of the mendacious book The Israel Lobby.

Hagel was probably the least supportive Republican on matters relating to Israel during the years he served in the Senate. He seemed to take pride in his independence from his party on this issue, as well as in opposing the surge in Iraq, fighting sanctions or even the implied threat of military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and calling for big cuts in defense spending. Barack Obama seems to like federal spending of all kinds, except for defense. He seems to have found a soul-mate on that policy position in Hagel.

Politically, the Hagel pick, if it is made, is smart politics for Obama. Americans seem to want the two parties to work together, and for a Democratic president to win re-election and then name a Republican (a Republican at one time at least) to run the Pentagon, looks like bipartisanship at its best. Other than some very strong supporters of the U.S-Israel relationship in the Senate, most Democrats will probably back the president and many Republicans will too. Given U.S-Israeli cooperation on the Iron Dome and the critical months ahead for making decisions both in Israel and the United States on what to do to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Hagel is certainly not what supporters of Israel would be looking for to run the Defense Department.

Some supporters of Obama will say that the president has shown he has Israel’s back, so no one need worry about Chuck Hagel. After all, the buck stops in the Oval Office (or on the golf course or in Hawaii). But what does it say about a president who appoints Bashar Assad’s former best friend in the Senate to run the State Department, and Israel’s toughest critic from his days in the Senate to run the Defense Department? That he has Israel’s back? Really?

Richard Baehr is the chief political correspondent for American Thinker. This column first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with the permission of Richard Baehr.

2 Comments

  • If Obama does make these two choices we’ll get even bigger clues as to his real attitudes towards Israel. Hegel appears to be a ‘border-line’ Arabist of the old State Dept. variety. With him as US Sec. of Def. who’s left to “have Israel’s back”. Kerry will have sweep his Assad frienship under a big carpet.
    Fortunately, we still have some strong friends in the Senate.

  • There is an old adage, “Tell Me Who Your Friends Are and I Will Tell You Who You Are.” If people naively presume that Obama’s social policies makes the man, then they will soon find out the perfect storm against Israel and Jews has been consummated. We Jews are heading towards the time of reckoning because the old/new wars against us is brewing at a frightening fast pace. http://tinyurl.com/d74odr5

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.