One of the staunchest allies Israel has ever had in the Senate was Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Former chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and, at 88, the most senior member of the Senate, Inouye passed away yesterday. And so I begin with a salute to him.
On learning of the Senator’s death, Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, released a statement:
“When he was still a soldier, recovering from the loss of an arm in combat, Senator Inouye learned about the Holocaust and began a lifelong attachment to the Jewish people and, later, to Israel. His dedication to Israel’s security was unswerving.
“Our people owe him an immense historic debt. The Iron Dome system that recently intercepted hundreds of terrorist rockets aimed at our homes stands as enduring proof of his commitment to the defense of the Jewish State.”
Oren told Inouye’s family, “The State of Israel grieves with you.”
And from this, I move to the subject of former Senator Chuck Hagel, who, according to many media reports — starting with Bloomberg — have pegged him as the one most likely to be named by President Obama as the successor to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who is planning to retire next year. A very troubling possibility.
Abraham Foxman, the Director of ADL, wrote to Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin that,.“His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.”
And a host of commentators have expressed concern about the possibility that Hagel would be pegged for the position:
Bret Stephens, in his piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Chuck Hagel’s Jewish Problem,” observed that:
“Prejudice—like cooking, wine-tasting and other consummations—has an olfactory element. When Chuck Hagel, the former GOP senator from Nebraska who is now a front-runner to be the next secretary of Defense, carries on about how ‘the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,’ the odor is especially ripe.”
Ed Koch, in an interview with Algemeiner, said:
“I believe it would be a terrible appointment, and so do apparently most of the Jewish leaders who have expressed themselves.
“Such an appointment would give great comfort to the Arab world that would think that President Obama is seeking to put space between Israel and his administration. I hope he doesn’t go forward with that appointment.”
Earlier, ZOA president Mort Klein had told Algemeiner that “There is only a handful of senators that have been openly hostile to Israel and Chuck Hagel is one of them.”
Well, it’s not a done deal yet and perhaps will never happen (see following), but in my book the fact that Hagel is, according to all reports, a front runner on Obama’s list speaks volumes about Obama.
It’s not terribly different from what I said about Mahmoud Abbas: the unity government with Hamas may never become a reality, but as Abbas is willing to consider it, we can learn a good deal about his intentions.
So too with Obama. What can we surmise from the fact that he is seriously considering appointing to his cabinet someone who has been openly hostile to Israel?
A prime reason why I say Hagel’s nomination to the post may never happen is because there seems yet someone else who may be in the serious running: Michele Flournoy, the current deputy defense secretary.
According to Ron Kampeas, in a piece that has just come out on the JTA website, there is enthusiasm for Flournoy because “under Obama [she] has been at the nexus of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship — the area of the relationship where close working relationships have flourished (as opposed to the diplomatic arena, where there have been tensions).”
Kampeas details the enthusiasm of several individuals plus the reasons why she might be a shoo-in.