Jewish Republicans jump on Hagel appointment to intelligence panel
10/29/2009 - 11:23
James Besser

I was wondering how long it would take for Obama administration opponents in the Jewish community to respond to today’s announcement that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) will co-chair the Intelligence Advisory Board, an independent panel that provides recommendations to the President on key intelligence matters.

Answer: not very long, An hour after the announcement was made at the White House, the Republican Jewish Coalition weighed in with a release that pointed out the reasons a lot of pro-Israel groups will choke on the Hagel appointment.

Hagel will co-chair the panel with former Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.)

Anticipating a possible defense of the appointment from Jewish Democrats, the GOP group cited concerns the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) had in in 2008, when Hagel was considering a presidential bid.  NJDC said at the time that Hagel “has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.”

You can read NJDC’s complaints about Hagel here; it will be interesting to see if the group takes the link down, now that he’s a Democratic appointee.

Progressives appreciate Hagel because of his fierce opposition to the Iraq war (after initially supporting it).  But he has been critical of the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy, the RJC says, and he was an early supporter of engagement with Iran, something not generally favored in pro-Israel boardrooms.

“Chuck Hagel has a distorted view of Israel, of Iran, and of the threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East,” the RJC’s Matt Brooks said in a statement. “Placing him in a sensitive role in the intelligence community, where he will advise the President on the effectiveness of intelligence community assessments of global issues, is very troubling.”

But Jewish Democrats  pointed out that the RJC and other GOP groups didn’t criticize Hagel when he was saying those things – as a Republican member of the Senate. “This is the ultimate chutzpah,” said a leading Jewish Democrat. “For 12 years Hagel had a questionable record, and not once did Republican Jews call him out.”

Still, this appointment isn’t likely to calm the concerns of those pro-Israel activists who think the Obama administration isn’t full of warm fuzzies for Israel.

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