Speaker Rivlin
Speaker RivlinIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Israel is concerned over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense, Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin said on Monday.

“Because of his statements in the past, and his stance toward Israel, we are worried,” Rivlin told The Associated Press.

He added, however, that the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Israel is strong and “one person doesn’t determine policy.”

Netanyahu’s office refused to comment on the appointment, as did officials in the Israeli foreign and defense ministries.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, along with countless others, has cited a long list of Hagel’s anti-Israel policies, asserting that his nomination would “be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”

AFP reported that Republican Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that must approve Hagel, congratulated the fellow Vietnam veteran on the nomination and said Hagel "served our nation with honor," but also said he had "serious concerns" about his nomination.

Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat who heads the committee, said that Hagel was "well-qualified" and promised "prompt and careful consideration" of the nomination, according to AFP.

In the House of Representatives, which does not confirm nominations, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he was "profoundly concerned" and called Hagel's past statements on Israel "inflammatory."

Cantor, the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, said Hagel's views "are well outside the mainstream and raise well-founded doubts that he can be trusted to manage the special relationship the United States shares with our greatest Middle Eastern ally."

Another Republican senator, John Cornyn of Texas, said he would oppose the nomination, charging it would be the "worst possible message we could send to our friend Israel and the rest of our allies in the Middle East."

Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday that Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be "the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense toward the state of Israel" in U.S. history.

Obama has defended Hagel's record, saying he "is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who's currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job."

Hagel himself said on Monday that there is "not one shred of evidence that I'm anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel."

"I didn't sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn't solve a problem," he said.

As for allegations that he has been soft toward Iran's apparent efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, Hagel pointed to his support for strong international sanctions, including those now in place.

"I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone they don't work and they just isolate the United States," he said.

"United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn't work," he added.

Arutz Sheva recently posted an op-ed with Hagel's record. Click here to read it.