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A Brief Word About Hagel

Since I penned a piece [1] warning not to assume we know why President Obama floated Hagel’s name in the first place (maybe that’s what they mean by lack of enthusiasm [2]), I should say that I’m pleased that the President is going through with the nomination. And I’m hopeful that Hagel, who I remember from the Senate as being someone who didn’t quite have the courage of his own purported convictions, has changed with time and retirement from the Senate. I’m not expecting Hagel to set foreign policy – that’s the responsibility of the President, and whatever advice Hagel might give him in office he could also have given him privately. But if we’re actually going to trim military expenditures, we need someone at Defense who isn’t captive to the interests who want to keep spending at a maximum. Whatever else Hagel may or may not be, he is somebody who has publicly called for cutting defense spending.

I said in my previous note on Hagel that the charges leveled against him of being anti-Israeli or even an anti-Semite are baseless, but I wanted to add that while it is plain that Israel has benefitted from American sponsorship generally, there’s much less evidence that a carte blanche attitude has benefitted either Israel or the US-Israeli relationship. It’s kind of become a cliche for critics of Israel to say they are the truly pro-Israel voices, because they are trying to save Israel from itself, and I think there’s an understandable resistance to what looks like concern trolling from that corner. But, nonetheless: it’s a fact that the only time Israel was threatened with catastrophic defeat, it was saved in the clutch by President Richard Nixon, who was personally no lover of the Jewish people; it’s a fact that the Camp David Accords, negotiated under the aegis of President Jimmy Carter, who got a lower percentage of the Jewish vote than any modern Democrat when he ran for reelection, hugely benefitted Israel’s security position; and it’s a fact that George H. W. Bush, whose Secretary of State infamously said, “f- the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway” midwifed, by careful management of the end of the Cold War and the conduct of the Gulf War, a more favorable strategic environment for Israel than it ever enjoyed before or since.

The point being: if Israel and America have a natural alliance of common interests, that alliance will be strengthened by enduring through periods when points of divergence achieve greater prominence, and the personnel in office devote necessary attention to those points.

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11 Comments To "A Brief Word About Hagel"

#1 Comment By Noah172 On January 7, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

But, nonetheless: it’s a fact that the only time Israel was threatened with catastrophic defeat, it was saved in the clutch by President Richard Nixon, who was personally no lover of the Jewish people; it’s a fact that the Camp David Accords, negotiated under the aegis of President Jimmy Carter, who got a lower percentage of the Jewish vote than any modern Democrat when he ran for reelection, hugely benefitted Israel’s security position; and it’s a fact that George H. W. Bush, whose Secretary of State infamously said, “f- the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway” midwifed, by careful management of the end of the Cold War and the conduct of the Gulf War, a more favorable strategic environment for Israel than it ever enjoyed before or since.

Let’s throw in Eisenhower, who defied Israel and its American cheering section over Israel’s adventurism in Suez. Interestingly enough, in the very same year as the Suez business, 1956, Ike garnered a higher percentage of the Jewish vote than any Republican since; make of that what you will.

Grovelers Bush 43 and McCain could barely get a fifth of the Jewish vote. Romney got a third because secular liberal Jews are starting to die off, or maybe because some Jews figured that Romney was not actually going to follow through on right-wing positions on abortion, homosexual rights, and Third World immigration, so they felt free to vote on his pro-Likud, pro-Wall Street policies.

#2 Comment By gcochran On January 7, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

” if Israel and America have a natural alliance of common interests”

They don’t. Come on, Noah, you know that.

#3 Comment By SDS On January 7, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

He said “IF””

#4 Comment By Aaron Gross On January 7, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

This “beneficial divorce” thing is what TAC’s Leon Hadar has been writing for years. It’s wrong. Except for very minor things like settlement expansion, US support for Israel benefits Israel and harms the US. Your loyalties are divided and conflicting (as are Hadar’s loyalties and mine).

I know I’ve just made assertions and no arguments. I’m not going to defend a whole policy in comments. But if you’re writing from a center-left Zionist perspective (like TAC’s Scott McConnell), then you’re seriously underestimating the harm that would be caused to the US by its support for Israel after Israeli withdrawal from the territories.

Another thing: Are you serious about your historical examples? Aid to Israel as a part of global strategy against the USSR; aid to a peace agreement that the Israelis and Egyptians were moving towards themselves; and global/regional strategy that, if it did benefit Israel, did so only as a side effect. None of these are relevant today.

#5 Comment By Aaron Gross On January 7, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

Noah172, you’re completely wrong (once again). Most Republicans align themselves with the Israeli right, which pushes away American Jews, who are much closer to the Israeli Zionist left.

American Jews are about 2% of the voters and are only a small minority of those Americans who are strongly Zionist. The Republican “groveling,” as you put it, is directed towards evangelical and other Christian Zionists, who have a much harder-line position on Israel than do Jewish Zionists. It’s the Democrats, not the Republicans, who match Jewish American positions on Israel.

#6 Comment By Mean Joe Green On January 7, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

CW Millman’s two cents!

p.s. you get a first comment like that and people wonder why people overreact to certain criticisms of Israel

#7 Comment By Noah172 On January 8, 2013 @ 10:15 am

Aaron,

Yes, the Republicans are pandering to the Christian Zionists, but they are also pandering to their Jewish donors, who tend towards fanaticism in matters Levantine and whose donations form an astonishingly disproportionate share of the GOP’s funding (as is the case with the Democrats, of course). Furthermore, the GOP is, after all, the Stupid Party, enamored of Rovian schemes to squeeze a few more Jewish votes in Florida, no matter the cost to the national interest — no matter, indeed, how successful such schemes prove on their own terms, with Florida Jews continuing to vote as heavily Democratic as Jews elsewhere.

#8 Comment By Essayist-Lawyer On January 8, 2013 @ 11:28 am

Can you imagine what would happen if any American President tried to imitate Eisenhower today?

#9 Comment By James Canning On January 8, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

A very strong case can be made that Israeli troops and police must be pulled out of the West Bank, and that the insane colonisation programme cannot be allowed to alter the borders of an independent Palestine. Unless Palestine accepts border modifications.

We should remember that Kissinger and Nixon ignored the pleas of Leonid Brezhnev, that the US force Israel to get out of the Sinai. This blunder on their part nearly brought on a disaster.

#10 Comment By James Canning On January 8, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

Aaron Gross – – Yes, the Nixon administration refused to force Israel out of the Sinai, prior to the 1973 Arab-Israel war. Due to concern the Soviet Union would gain too much prestige.

Eisenhower, of course, did force Israel out of the Sinai, in 1956-57. As he forced Britain and France to pull their forces out of the Suez Canal area.

#11 Comment By JoaoAlfaiate On March 8, 2013 @ 8:24 am

This rag is getting more like “Commentary” every day.