Top Jewish Leaders Meet with Hagel

Top Jewish leaders met with controversial defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, in what seems to be an effort to placate Jewish concerns.

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Rachel Hirshfeld,

President Obama and Chuck Hagel
President Obama and Chuck Hagel

Top Jewish organizational leaders met with President Obama’s controversial defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, and Vice President Joe Biden, in what seems to be an effort to placate widespread Jewish concerns regarding the nominee’s worrisome record regarding Israel and Iran.

The hour-long session on January 18 in Washington was "an important opportunity for a serious and thorough discussion of key issues of importance to all of us," said leaders of the Jewish groups, which included the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

"Senator Hagel...discussed his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, including his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and to sustaining the Obama Administration’s unprecedented security cooperation with Israel," said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, according to Politico.

Hagel "appreciated the opportunity to have a constructive, informed and wide-ranging discussion," the official added.

Last week, Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, met with top Jewish Democrats and apologized for a 2006 comment in which he described the "Jewish lobby" as "intimidating.” He reassured them of his commitment to abiding by President Obama’s policies in the Middle East.

While Hagel also maintained that he is a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, he did not withdraw past criticisms of the Jewish state. 

Hagel’s confirmation hearing has been set to convene on January 31, at which time United States lawmakers will have their first chance to formally question the controversial nominee, who is likely to replace Leon Panetta.