Can Chuck Hagel survive the onslaught of pro-Israeli lobby?

HagelCriticizing Israel is no less than an act of blasphemy and criticism by someone from the US can dash all his hopes to be someone important in the administration. Sen. Chuck Hegel from Nebraska and a decorated Vietnam veteran, recently nominated to take the reins of US war machine as Secretary Defense is expected to face tough resistance from pro-Israeli lobby in the Senate. His acts of commission include the unforgivable stand against Israel. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate where Republicans are keenly awaiting to quiz him on Israel and his other controversial views resented by Israel. They openly describe him to be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history.

Does his nomination for the coveted slot give any indication of US ignoring the concerns of its ally, Israel? Can he survive the onslaught and be confirmed by pro-Israeli lobby in the Senate? Let us see.

According to The Telegraph, despite being a fellow Republican who sat in the Senate for the party from 1997 to 2009, Mr. Hagel holds markedly less hawkish views on foreign and military policy than many former colleagues. The 66-year-old Vietnam veteran endorsed Mr. Obama, a Democrat, in 2008, having criticized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and urging a less gung-ho approach to America’s alliance with Israel. In a 2006 interview he said that the “political reality” of Washington was that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here”, prompting allegations that his views verged on anti-Semitic. But he dismissed the criticism by aligning himself with US interests saying, “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.” Mr. Hagel also voted against sanctions on Iran and urged Israel to engage in direct talks with Hamas, the militant Islamic group.

He is the one who, without mincing his words, clearly stated the motive for attacking Iraq in 2003. He said, “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.”

Michael Moore, in his article addressed Mr Hagel saying, “thank you, Chuck Hagel. We may not agree on much, but we agree that politicians should tell the truth about war and peace and life and death. We’re all in your debt for that — especially since, when it comes to Iraq and oil, President Obama’s first Republican Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, couldn’t manage it.

Mr Hagel may or may not sail through hostile confirmation proceedings in the Senate, but his nomination indicates that Obama administration is not impressed with the policies of present Israeli administration. This could be due to many reasons, chiefly among them being Prime Minister Netanyahu’s open preference for the Republicans in the US election two months ago. According to ALJAZEERA, one reason for Obama’s apparent indifference may be that there is almost no possibility that Netanyahu will not be the next prime minister. The only question is whether Netanyahu’s next government will be as far right (and pro-settlement expansion) as his current government or much farther to the right.

Israel’s stakes in who-occupies-White-House are very high. Every Israeli is aware that without the support of President Obama, Israel would be in desperate straits. The United States provides Israel with billions of dollars of aid a year, aid which is used to purchase the weapon systems that sustains Israel’s “military edge” which enables it to both maintain the occupation and defend itself. That aid also provides Israel with the economic cushion it needs to preserve its immunity to the recession that has afflicted most of the world. It is the President of the United States who decides whether to stand (virtually alone) with Israel at the United Nations, using veto to block any resolution that Israel opposes. It is the President who has adopted Israel’s position on Iranian nuclear development as his own, leading the effort to punish Iran with sanctions and reiterating Israeli threats that there will be war if Iran develops nuclear weapons (despite the fact that Israel is said to have some 200 warheads). In short, Israel is almost entirely dependent on the President of the United States. As for Congress, it matters too but, on all foreign policy matters, it is the President who leads. That is how the United States Constitution works. It is the President who defends the national interest abroad.

But there is an emerging consensus by analysts that US interests are being damaged by Israel’s current course, because an Israeli government dominated by ultra-nationalists, racists and fascists impacts on US standing throughout the world. After all, the world (and not just the Muslim world) understands that Americans are Israel’s enabler. By opposing Hagel and preventing his nomination, pro-Israeli lobby is trying to show to the administration that they are a force to reckon with. That is probably why it is time for President Obama to send a clear message to Israel by nominating former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. There is only one way to send a message to Israel that will be heard: It will be by nominating Hagel.


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