Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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 Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships World Researchers Say Women Less Likely Than Men to Kill Hitler, if They Could Travel Back in Time

    Researchers Say Women Less Likely Than Men to Kill Hitler, if They Could Travel Back in Time

    Women are less likely than men to want to kill Nazi leader Adolph Hitler if given the ability to travel back in time, a recently published research paper revealed. The paper analyzed 40 studies involving 6,100 respondents in a time-travel thought experiment, the New York Post reported on Friday. While 60 percent of men said they would theoretically be willing to kill Hitler, only 55 percent of women said they would be comfortable doing the same. The paper was published in the Personality and […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Groups Enraged After New 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Claims That Jews Killed Jesus

    Jewish Groups Enraged After New 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Claims That Jews Killed Jesus

    Former Australian rugby player and 2014 NFL grab Jarryd Hayne grabbed headlines and angered Jewish groups over a tweet last week accusing Jews of killing Jesus Christ. “Jesus wanted to help people but was killed by his own people,” Hayne wrote through his Twitter handle, followed by over 120,000 Twitter users, on July 1. Unperturbed by the potential for backlash among some of his fans, Hayne went on to tweet the next day: “The Jews were the people who took him to the Romans n forced them to give the order because they […]

    Read more →