Recently, Chuck Hagel sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer where he referred to his reference to the “Jewish lobby” as a poor choice of words, claimed that he supports sanctions on Iran, and condemned Hezbollah as a terrorist threat. In 2006, Chuck Hagel had claimed that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates US law-makers, a statement which many people rightly interpreted to be anti-semitic for it resembles the anti-semitic stereotype that Jews seek to dominate the world. Yet despite his recent statements, Americans should not be fooled, for Hagel most likely would not have stated these things unless he felt his nomination were threatened.

Indeed, prior to attempting to become US Secretary of Defense, Hagel served as the chairman of the Atlantic Council, which featured an article titled “Israel’s Apartheid Policy” that claimed falsely that Israel’s control over Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria was similar to apartheid in South Africa. In order to support such an incorrect accusation, the article claimed that there are separate roads for Jews and Arabs in Judea and Samaria, without mentioning that this only became the case because of Palestinian terrorism. As the chairman of the Atlantic Council, it is highly unlikely that Chuck Hagel permitted this to be published unless he agreed with it.

Thus, because of Hagel’s past record, many Americans, including a great many Democrats, have concerns about the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be US Secretary of Defense. Democratic Senator of Maryland, Ben Cardin, responded in an email to this author about the matter, “I share many of your concerns about Chuck Hagel’s nomination based on positions he has taken and statements he has made on a variety of topics.”

Senator Cardin was especially worried about Hagel’s position on the future scope of the US military, his views on relationships with US allies, and how he would address national security challenges like Iran. He was also deeply concerned about his commitment to gay rights in the US army and assured me as a Maryland voter that he would ask very “tough questions” before voting.

Ed Koch, a former Democratic New York mayor and a staunch backer of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, is not just concerned but outright opposed on principle to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as US Secretary of Defense. According to Ed Koch, “I believe it would be a terrible appointment and so do most of the Jewish leaders who have expressed themselves. Such an appointment would give comfort to the Arab world that would think that President Obama is seeking to put space between Israel and his administration.”

ZOA President Morton Klein concurred, stating, “He is one of the most hostile critics of Israel that has ever been in the US Senate.” The American media has speculated that as many as 10 Democratic Senators may vote against Hagel’s nomination, which combined with the immense Republican opposition could end up preventing Hagel from serving. This is why Hagel was attempting to back-track on his past record.

Meanwhile, at least 400 Christian leaders associated with Christians United for Israel have traveled to Capital Hill in an attempt to block Hagel’s nomination. This group of Christian supporters of Israel will be meeting with all 100 US Senate offices. According to one GOP Senate Aid, “This will be very impactful for Republicans and Democrats from states with large evangelical populations like Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Republicans will know the Hagel issue is a key issue for the base while Democrats in Republican-leaning states may think twice before walking the plank for a nominee they never wanted.”

By Rachel Avraham