The nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense has emerged as a thorn in the side of pro-Israel groups thanks to his controversial stand on Mideast issues and a crack about the “Jewish Lobby.’’
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, warily said Monday that while he would “respect’’ President Barack Obama’s selection, “Hagel would not have been my first choice.’’
His positions “seem so out of sync with President Obama’s clear commitment on issues like Iran sanctions, isolating Hamas and Hezbollah, and the president’s strong support for a deepening of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation,’’ Foxman said.
“I particularly hope Sen. Hagel will clarify and explain his comments about the ‘Jewish Lobby’ that were hurtful to so many in the Jewish community.’’
In 2008, Hagel referred to Israel’s American supporters as “the Jewish Lobby’’ and ripped them as intimidating.
Hagel later said he misspoke in using the term.
The Jewish Weekly, citing the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service, reported Monday that American Jewish Committee chapters are writing to U.S. senators urging them to ask Obama to choose someone else.
The chapters are particularly concerned about “Hagel's postures on Iran and terrorist groups but also his resistance to joining in letters and non-binding resolutions favored by Jewish and pro-Israel groups,’’ the publication said.
Some Jewish groups have defended Hagel for his record in voting for assistance to Israel.
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, served in the Senate from 1997-2008.
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