|Pentagon nominee Hagel reaffirms Israel embrace
Chuck Hagel, bracing for a bruising Senate confirmation as the next US defense secretary, pledged “total support’’ for Israel after lawmakers criticized his views on the Middle East.
There is “not one shred of evidence that I'm anti-Israeli, not one vote [of mine] that matters that hurt Israel,’’ the former Republican senator told The Lincoln Journal Star, a newspaper in his home state of Nebraska, AFP reports.
Hagel and Democratic President Barack Obama did not address the controversy as he was nominated at the White House. But the Nebraska newspaper quoted the famously blunt senator as saying critics have “completely distorted’’ his record.
Hagel said that, until his nomination was announced, he had been “hanging out in no-man's land unable to respond to charges, falsehoods and distortions’’ and that he has shown “unequivocal, total support for Israel.’’
Pro-Israel lawmakers have denounced Hagel, with some commentators accusing him of anti-Semitism, for his past comments that “the Jewish lobby’’ intimidated members of Congress and that he is “not an Israeli senator.’’
In what could be a preview of his case in confirmation hearings, Hagel told the newspaper he did not sign on to largely symbolic resolutions in Congress supported by a pro-Israeli group because they were “counter-productive.’’
“How does that further the peace process in the Middle East?'' Hagel asked. “What's in Israel's interest is to help Israel and the Palestinians find some peaceful way to live together.’’
On cue as Obama announced the nomination, the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel put online a website that attacks Hagel as “not a responsible option.’’ The website is www.chuckhagel.com, the nominee apparently having failed to secure the address with his name