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Pro-Israel figures join ad endorsing Hagel as defense secretary

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of prominent pro-Israel Jewish figures joined an ad endorsing Chuck Hagel for the U.S. defense secretary post.

Meanwhile, Christians United for Israel announced plans to bring 200 pastors and other Christian leaders to Washington to lobby against Hagel’s confirmation, according to Breitbart.com.

The pro-Hagel ad appearing Wednesday in The Hill, a Capitol Hill daily, said the former Nebraska senator would "ably continue security cooperation between the United States and the State of Israel, which has reached unprecedented levels during President Obama’s time in office."

Among the 45 signatories to the ad, which was organized by the Israel Policy Forum, were former ambassadors to Israel and a number of public figures known for their pro-Israel activism as well as involvement in Democratic politics. They included former Congress members Mel Levine, Gary Ackerman and Robert Wexler; Stuart Eizenstat, a former top official in the Carter and Clinton administrations who helped broker Holocaust reparation agreements; Rabbi Sharon Brous, who founded the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles; Tom Dine, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; and the philanthropist Charles Bronfman.

Hagel in recent weeks has met and conversed with Jewish leaders, apologizing for a 2006 interview in which he referred to a "Jewish lobby" that was "intimidating" and making clear his support for for the U.S.-Israel relationship. He also told the leaders of his support for sanctions on Iran and his willingness to resort to a military strike as a last resort to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In the CUFI announcement, spokesmen for the group said the delegation would meet with staffers in the offices of all 100 U.S. senators and would arrive under the aegis of its affiliate, the CUFI Action Network.

CUFI has joined other conservative groups such as the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Zionist Organization of America and the Emergency Committee for Israel in pushing against Hagel’s nomination because of his past skepticism of unilateral Iran sanctions and past wariness of military engagement with Iran.

A number of liberal Jewish groups, like the Israel Policy Forum, have endorsed Hagel, while a number of mainstream centrist groups have expressed concerns about his nomination but not formally opposed it.

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