Unwise Campaign Against Hagel


That “several pro-Israel groups have been very vocal in warning against the [former Sen. Chuck] Hagel appointment” (“What To Do About Hagel?” Jan 11) is putting it mildly. Many of these groups, as well as Jewish neoconservatives,

have been vitriolic and unrelenting in their criticisms, calling Sen. Hagel anti-Israel and some even going so far as to call him anti-Semitic. This is an outrage.

Numerous current and former American and Israeli political, diplomatic and security leaders have effectively rebutted these charges on their merits (or lack thereof).

As a longtime supporter of Israel, I am deeply concerned that this pernicious and unwise campaign against a presidential nominee for defense secretary, mounted by people who say they are pro-Israel, could cause great harm to U.S.-Israel relations and lessen U.S. support for Israel. It could alienate some Obama supporters and lead some Americans to question the need for American aid to Israel at a time when our economic recovery is fragile. Furthermore, focusing the Hagel appointment on Israel makes “Israel a front-and-center issue in the dispute” over his nomination, as your editorial correctly points out.

Israel is a close and valuable ally to the United States. But it must not become an automatic litmus test for a presidential nominations’ acceptability, must not be wielded as a political weapon by either Republicans or Democrats and must not dominate political discourse in the United States. Americans might then ask why a tiny country plays such a large role.

Israel’s true friends in America must strive to make sure these things do not happen, and condemn them if they do.


The writer is a former chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.