The Israel Lobby vs. President Obama: What the Chuck Hagel Fight Really Means
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“The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests. … The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.
“Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships … in the area and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”
Petraeus’s testimony provoked a sharp rejoinder from Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the leading American Zionist lobby groups. Foxman protested:
“Gen. Petraeus simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. … in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived favoritism for Israel. This linkage is dangerous and counterproductive.”
Petraeus or someone on his staff had inadvertently touched a live-wire reality that is becoming increasingly debated in official circles but remains taboo when it comes to saying it out loud. Fearful that he would be dubbed an “anti-Semite,” Petraeus began a frantic attempt to take back the words, which he noted were only in his prepared testimony and were not repeated in his oral presentation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “ Neocons, Likud Conquer DC, Again.”]
As Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada describes it, this taboo proscribes “stating publicly that U.S. ‘interests’ and Israeli ‘interests’ are not identical, and that Israel might be a strategic burden, rather than an asset to the United States.”
Ironically, while Foxman and hardline Zionists were objecting vociferously, Meir Dagan, then-Israel’s Mossad chief told a Knesset committee, “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.”
Taboo or not, an un-passionately-attached realist like Chuck Hagel presumably would be able to see that reality – anathema in Zionist circles – for what it is.
As prospective Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel would bring something else that would be extremely valuable to the job, a real-life understanding of the horrors of war. He volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1967 at the height of the fighting there, rejecting his local draft board’s suggestion that he re-enroll in college to avoid Vietnam. A combat infantry squad leader, he was twice wounded in that crucible. Do not let anyone tell you that this does not have a lasting effect on a man.
First in Three Decades
Were Hagel to become Secretary of Defense, he would become the first in 30 years to bring to the job direct battle experience of war. One must trace 14 former secretaries of defense all the way back to Melvin Laird (1969-1973) for one who has seen war up-close and personal. (Like Hagel, Laird enlisted and eventually earned a Purple Heart as a seaman in the Pacific theater during WWII.)
Given this real world experience, the Israelis and their supporters in the U.S. might well conclude that Hagel would not be as blasé as his predecessors when it comes to sending troops off to war – and even less so for a war like the prospective one with Iran.
Hagel’s past statements suggest he would urge more flexibility in talks with Iran on the nuclear issue and on Palestine, as well. This leaves him vulnerable to charges from the Israel Lobby, but even some pro-Israel stalwarts reject the far-fetched notion that this makes him “anti-Semitic.”
In comments to the New Yorker’s Connie Bruck, for example, Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, has drawn a sensible contrast between Hagel’s apparent inclination toward more flexibility with Iran on the nuclear issue and the more familiar attitude – which Ackerman described as: “You know ‘Let’s bomb them before the sun comes up.’”