For the last two weeks commentators in the Israel and the Jewish world have been obsessing over the appointment of Chuck Hagel as the U.S. Secretary of Defense. I have no idea whether Hagel is good or bad for Israel. What I do know is, all the talk about whether he is good or bad is bad for Israel.
Presidents are generally given wide latitude regarding their cabinet appointments. This is especially true of those presidents who have been reelected by a large margin. Only twice over the entire course of American history has a sitting President been denied confirmation of a senator whom he has chosen to put nominate to a cabinet position. Furthermore, those disparate instances where cabinet confirmation was denied were very extreme (such as the case of Senator Tower, who was denied confirmation –– not because of his beliefs, but – because of concerns he was an alcoholic.)
The problem with those who keep talking and writing about Hagel has been made more egregious by the fact that, by and large, those making the case against Hagel are the same groups that opposed President Obama’s re-election. Vocally opposing Hagel’s nomination is even worse for Israel, since Prime Minister Netanyahu made the foolish bet that Obama would not be reelected. Considering that fact, every Israeli supporter needs to stay on the sidelines, and not try to derail what Obama considers an important appointment. Despite the fact that we in Israel think every decision is made with our interests in mind, President Obama did not decide on Senator Hagel because of his views on Israel. It is widely believed that President Obama nominated Chuck Hegel because he wanted bring in a former soldier who understood Washington to be in charge of the Pentagon during a period of proposed defense cuts.
In the 1980’s the Pro-Israel community made a big mistake when it opposed the sale of AWAC’s aircraft to Saudi Arabia. This was a mistake, as it was something President Reagan really wanted. It is very difficult to go against the wishes of a sitting President on an issue of Foreign policy and win. It’s even more difficult to successfully win against a sitting President when it comes to an key appointment. It took AIPAC a few years to recover from its loss – since much of AIPAC’s power comes from the fact that it is perceived to be nearly invincible. Intelligently, AIPAC seems to have decided to sit out this fight. I call on all those who are busy writing articles and giving interviews attacking Hagel to find something else to write about. Chuck Hagel will be the next United States Secretary of Defense. Anything that is done to attack him based on his supposed stands on Israel can only hurt us!