WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s defense minister and the Anti-Defamation League lavished praise on U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the day he announced his resignation.
The tributes from Moshe Yaalon and the ADL on Monday were in sharp contrast with the intense scrutiny that Hagel received from pro-Israel groups when he was nominated for the post two years ago.
“Chuck Hagel is a true friend of Israel,” Yaalon said in a tweet Monday illustrated by photos of Hagel and Yaalon embracing.
“His contributions to Israel’s defense infrastructure and to Israeli relations with the United States were great and very substantive,” said the tweet, written in Hebrew.
Hagel said Monday that he would resign as defense secretary. Reports suggested that the move was partly because of difficulties in his relations with President Obama’s White House security team.
The ADL in a statement praised Hagel’s “energetic stewardship of America’s commitment to Israel’s security in a dangerous region,” saying it “has been vital as Israel has faced unprecedented threats.”
“His hands-on engagement to ensure that our ally, Israel, can live in safety and security and maintain its rightful place in the community of nations will have a lasting impact,” the ADL said.
The comments differed sharply from 2012, when Hagel was Obama’s nominee for the post and centrist pro-Israel groups such as the ADL and the American Jewish Committee joined Republicans and right-wing pro-Israel groups in saying that statements he made while he was a Republican senator from Nebraska could disqualify him.
Hagel, during an abortive 2007 exploration of a presidential candidacy, suggested that pro-Israel groups had excessive influence, and also was skeptical of the utility of sanctions on Iran and of the U.S. refusal to engage with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
As defense secretary, however, Hagel maintained his close and friendly ties with Yaalon throughout an otherwise turbulent relationship between the Obama administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – even when Yaalon’s personal attacks on Hagel’s colleague, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, were the spur to tensions.
Additionally, Hagel oversaw an expansion in missile defense cooperation with Israel.