A tale of two Chucks

With the support of Democratic NY Senator Charles Schumer, Chuck Hagel is now almost certain to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Israeli and pro-Israel sources in the US have been very critical of the nomination (here are some of their objections). As a Senator, Hagel consistently voted against resolutions supporting Israel and condemning antisemitism. He opposed sanctions on Iran, called for negotiations with Hamas and did not support branding Hizballah as a terrorist organization. He has severely criticized Israel whenever (as in 2002, 2006 and 2008-9) it was forced to take military action against terrorists.

Hagel has consistently held to the (absurd) ‘linkage theory’, the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core problem of the Middle East, and needs to be ‘solved’ — that is, Israel must withdraw from all territories conquered in 1967 and a Palestinian state created — before other issues (like Iranian nuclearization and the spread of radical Islam?) can be dealt with (see also here as well as here).

As opposed to Hagel, Chuck Schumer has been one of the most pro-Israel members of the Senate. In 2010 he sharply criticized President Obama’s policy towards Israel:

“This has to stop,” he said of the administration’s policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem.

“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk,” Schumer told Segal. “Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.

“If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?'” Schumer said.

Schumer is critical to Hagel’s confirmation. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake explain:

What seems abundantly clear is that if Schumer could make his decision on Hagel in a political vacuum, he would probably vote no. But he can’t. Schumer is widely regarded as the next leader of Senate Democrats and, as such, his opinion matters a great deal. If Schumer signaled that he would vote no, it would give cover for other Democrats to follow suit — a domino effect that almost certainly would destroy Hagel’s chances.

Schumer, of course, knows that. And he doesn’t want to own the defeat of (and blame for) a Cabinet nominee put forward at the cusp of Obama’s second term. So, if personally Schumer has reason to oppose Hagel, politically he has every reason to support him.

Schumer, being one of the smartest strategists in the Senate, understands that he likely holds Hagel’s fate in his hands. Given those stakes, our (educated) guess is that if Hagel is apologetic about some of his past statements during his meeting with Schumer, the New York Democrat will find a way to say yes.

Well, Cillizza and Blake nailed it. Schumer talked to the President and met with Hagel. And in a truly remarkable statement in which he credits Hagel with changing his mind on every Israel-related issue, endorsed him:

When Senator Hagel’s name first surfaced as a potential nominee for Secretary of Defense, I had genuine concerns over certain aspects of his record on Israel and Iran. Once the President made his choice, however, I agreed to keep these reservations private until I had the opportunity to discuss them fully with Senator Hagel in person.

In a meeting Monday, Senator Hagel spent approximately 90 minutes addressing my concerns one by one. It was a very constructive session. Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere.

Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him…

On Iran, Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn’t stop there. In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do “whatever it takes” to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force. He said his “top priority” as Secretary of Defense would be the planning of military contingencies related to Iran. He added that he has already received a briefing from the Pentagon on this topic.

In terms of sanctions, past statements by Senator Hagel sowed concerns that he considered unilateral sanctions against Iran to be ineffective. In our meeting, however, Senator Hagel clarified that he ‘completely’ supports President Obama’s current sanctions against Iran. He added that further unilateral sanctions against Iran could be effective and necessary.

On Hezbollah, Senator Hagel stressed that—notwithstanding any letters he refused to sign in the past—he has always considered the group to be a terrorist organization.

On Hamas, I asked Senator Hagel about a letter he signed in March 2009 urging President Obama to open direct talks with that group’s leaders.

In response, Senator Hagel assured me that he today believes there should be no negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah or any other terrorist group until they renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel’s right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas. He understood the predicament Israel is in when terrorist groups hide rocket launchers among civilian populations and stage attacks from there. He supported Israel’s right to defend herself even in those difficult circumstances.

In keeping with our promises to help equip Israel, Senator Hagel pledged to work towards the on-time delivery of the F-35 joint strike fighters to Israel, continue the cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on Iron Dome, and recommend to the President that we refuse to join in any NATO exercises if Turkey should continue to insist on excluding Israel from them.  Senator Hagel believes Israel must maintain its Qualitative Military Edge.

Regarding his unfortunate use of the term “Jewish lobby” to refer to certain pro-Israel groups, Senator Hagel understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it.

I know some will question whether Senator Hagel’s assurances are merely attempts to quiet critics as he seeks confirmation to this critical post. But I don’t think so. Senator Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago. His views are genuine, and reflect this new reality…

I think that such a radical conversion by Hagel is unlikely, given both the substance and tone of his remarks over the years. But apparently Schumer buys it, and that means that unless something totally unexpected happens, so will a majority of senators.

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4 Responses to “A tale of two Chucks”

  1. Robman says:

    Well, I happen to have access to a very strong, long-range Zionist fly that was on the wall during a meeting between Obama and Hagel that immediately preceded the meeting between Schumer and Hagel. This is a really amazing fly, you all must appreciate, as he can speak and understand English (he’d have to be amazing, as he is a Zionist…and you thought the Israelis only came up with amazing tomatoes).

    According to this Amazing Zionist Fly, Obama gave Hagel some sage advice from personal experience:

    “Chuckie baby, don’t sweat this meeting with Schumer. Take it from me: all you have to do is tell him what he wants to hear. If you have to lie outright, so what? Lying is OK as long as it is in the service of the right cause. Guys like us, we know what the “right cause” is, and that is the cause of peace. And ths shortest line to peace, as you well know, is getting rid of Israel. Then the Muslims won’t have anything to be mad at us about, and we won’t have to fight any more wars. What could be a more noble cause than that? What is a little lie, as against the prospect of Peace and Love Foreverafter?

    …So, you know what he wants to hear. He wants to hear that even though you said some outrageous things in the past, you really didn’t mean it, and even if you did, your views have “evolved” since then. He wants to hear that you absolutely, positively don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon (but don’t get bogged down in details as to how you’d prevent this, because then you’d have to make some promises you can’t keep).

    See, as long as you say you support Israel often enough – but be sure not to spell out HOW you’d support Israel…NEVER do THAT – and as long as you say you don’t want Iran to get nukes like you mean it, he won’t press you on examples of concrete, effective policy actions you’d take that support these assertions. Because he knows that then we’d think he was a “pushy Jew”, and he doesn’t want to come off that way, because above all else, HE WANTS TO THINK WE LIKE HIM. That’s what all these Jews want here in America, for people to like them. So, smile a lot, be friendly and whisper the requisite sweet nothings (remember: NOTHING about CONCRETE POLICY, GOT IT??!!), and he’ll be eating out of your hand in no time.

    Chuckie, I tell you man, you can take this to the bank. You can see how great this sort of thing has worked for me, can’t you? How do you think I still got 70% of the Jewish vote? I mean, I shouldn’t have got ANY [chuckles]…but I got most of ‘em anyway, just by doing what I told you to do just now. Works EVERY TIME!….Hey, this fly in here is really annoying me….Sure has an unusually long snout, that fly…Where’s a magazine when you need one? …OK, there he goes, out the window…”

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Robman,

    That is one great comment. I can’t possibly add anything to it.

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    As I understand it Hagel’s primary job is to cut the defense budget and make a real contribution to reducing the deficit. I do not think he will make the major defense decisions. President Obama will do that. I agree with the idea that Obama and Hagel are not the strongest supporters of Israel.
    The US has a real interest in preventing Iran from going nuclear. It may accept a phony negotiated deal that Israel will have difficulty living with. This could be the source of a major rift.
    The US also might put out some plan on the Palestinian track.This is a loser to begin with, and would only be suggested as a way of distancing Israel further from the U.S.
    Obama’s second term will give us a chance to see if those who said Obama is anti- Israel were right. My own hope, and I admit it is based on less than full and convincing evidence, is that Obama will stop the Iranian nuclear program, continue to support Israel both with weapon-systems and at the U.N. and will not try to isolate it further.

  4. Robman says:

    Shalom Freedman:

    I write to you from the U.S.A. I write you as someone who is the same age as Obama (born within two months of him), and as someone who attended and graduated from schools of comparable prestige during comparable time frames.

    I can tell you that a) Obama’s views are quite unremarkable for what passes for “elite academia” nowadays; his sort are minted by the thousands every year in liberal arts programs across the U.S. and the West generally; b) Obama is – as per his Saudi-funded programming – as anti-Israel as the day is long. I know his sort well; I went to school with many like him.

    Obama is not going to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Israel is on her own. Even if Hagel is not confirmed – and he probably will be – the very fact that Obama nominated him signals this as surely as anything.

    Obama will NOT support Israel in either weapons systems or diplomatically. Israel is already under a partial arms embargo from the U.S. She can get munitions and spare parts, and help with anti-missile systems, but not new platforms with offensive applications (i.e., attack helicopters and fighter jets). Israel requested new Apache helicopters early in Obama’s first term; they were refused. Israel requested new F-15s – Israel is flying F-15s that date back to the Carter administration – and this was also refused. The only exception was the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Obama authorized at the level of 20 airframes, enough for one squadron. This aircraft is the intended replacement for F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft in U.S. service, and among U.S. allies. It has been plagued by numerous technical problems and cost overruns. Though originally planned to be entering service right about now, it is not now projected to be in service operationally until at least 2016, and even that is likely to be pushed back….that is to say, after Obama is out of office. And he may very well cancel the program, leaving Israel with nothing (that is why Israel chose that Italian strike/trainer to replace the A-4 Skyhawk in this role, so as to get Israel’s foot in the door for posssible purchase, via Italian connections, of the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is jointly produced by Britain, Germany, and Italy…this might not work, but it is worth a try, and that is a good plane).

    Obama no longer has to concern himself with re-election, and with this in mind, with all this implies, during the next all but inevitable crises involving Israel and the Palestinians, you can expect Obama to abandon Israel at the U.N. (for her own good, of course).

    The biggest problem is Iran. Can Israel prevent Iran from getting nuclear arms without U.S. support? The answer to this better be yes, or Iran is going to get nuclear arms.

    If Iran is dealt with, then Israel will be OK in the long run, no matter what Obama does. However, “what Obama does” is going to likely include joining the anti-Israel bandwagon in the U.N., and also could involve supporting economic sanctions against Israel. These will hurt, but won’t be a mortal blow to the Jewish state.

    Israel is going to have to look for new major power allies. I believe China is a good prospect for this, though I freely admit that such a course of action carries substantial risks and problems of its own. But at least China is not anti-Semitic, and I don’t believe the Arab lobby has penetrated Chinese government/media/academia in the way that has occurred in the U.S. and West generally. If the effort is made by Israel, I think that at least Israel’s position will get a fair hearing by Chinese leaders, something that is increasingly in doubt in the U.S.

    In any event, even if there are sanctions, I don’t believe Russia, India, China, South Korea, or Japan would really observe them. The biggest threat here is from the EU, but again, while painful, this shouldn’t be fatal to Israel.

    Obama’s whole purpose in becoming president is to force a Saudi-style “peace” [surrender] plan down Israel’s throat, and failing that, to isolate Israel so that she will be destroyed in the manner of Rhodesia in the 70s, painted as an outlaw, illegitimate, “apartheid” state. I don’t think Obama can succeed in undermining Israel, and again as long as Iran is dealt with, Israel will survive.

    But what is probably not going to survive is the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship”. Obama will not leave office with that intact. He has the power to destroy at least that, and if he doesn’t get Israel to cry “uncle” on the Palestinian issue, he probably will do that at a bare minimum.

    I saw Romney as the last clear chance to restore America’s traditional post-WW2 role in general, and to repair/restore the U.S.-Israeli relationshiop in particular to something like “normal”, pre-Obama, or perhaps even better than that. Now that Obama has won re-election – in a rigged election, I’m sure, but this detail no longer matters – I see little hope for this. I hope I’m wrong, but I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

    Learn Chinese, Shalom. That’s my best advice for now.