Chuck Hagel’s Israel litmus test
Misjudging Chuck Hagel
What American Jews or Israelis think about Chuck Hagel’s views on Israel shouldn’t be the primary criterion to judge his nomination for secretary of Defense.
Jews worry for a living. Their dark history and, in the case of American Jews, their legitimate concerns about the security of the state of Israel impel them to do so.
But sometimes those concerns are overblown and reflect a kind of collective cosmic oy vey that gets in the way of sound and rational judgment.
Such is the case in the matter of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be President Obama’s next secretary of Defense.
Some of the comments attributed to Hagel about lobbies, Israel and the like come from an interview he gave me for my last book about American Middle East policy, particularly his use of the term “Jewish lobby.”
Hagel has said many things about Iran sanctions, Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah, which his opponents have seized upon. Some are out of sync with current U.S. policy. These and other issues are matters that will and should be explored during confirmation hearings.
But the notion that the views Hagel has on Israel — admittedly independent given the norms in Congress — should be grounds to attack him as an anti-Semite, let alone an enemy of the Jewish state, who is unfit and unqualified to serve as Defense secretary is wrong and unfair, not to mention harmful to the credibility of those who hold that view. And here’s why.