Chuck Hagel and the Jews

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Two e-mails I thought were worth answering:
The first:

You know supporting Chuck Hagel as you do (even in a backhanded way) means you're in the company of vicious anti-Semites and haters. I thought you should know that.

Yes, I know that. There are plenty of people (on the Internet, at least) who want Hagel as secretary of defense so that he will punish Israel. There are others who want him in order to prove that "Jewish power" in Washington is in eclipse. I get all that. But I can't let anti-Semites dictate the terms of this debate. I think Israel is heading down a dangerous path, toward its own, eventual dissolution, because it refuses to contemplate even unilateral half-measures that could lay the groundwork for a Palestinian state. I've been arguing for years that the settlers are the vanguard of binationalism, and now they're closer to the center of power than ever before.

I've spoken to Chuck Hagel in the past. He is not a hater of Israel. On the other hand, he, like Bob Gates, the former secretary of defense, might be able to look Netanyahu in the eye and demand an explanation for the Israeli government's actions on the West Bank. And yes, I'm disgusted by some of those of these new Hagelians. I know they wish Israel ill. But they shouldn't shape this debate, anymore than Hamas should shape this debate.

The second:

Don't you think it's dangerous for groups like the American Jewish Committee and the ADL, etc., to get so identified with stopping Hagel, to associate Jews with this cause? Couldn't this backfire?

Jews are unpopular when they're powerless. They're unpopular when they're powerful. They might as well be powerful, no? Do you think Stephen Walt is going to suddenly like Jews when Jewish groups lose whatever political influence they have?  I don't have any problem with groups of American citizens expressing their opinions about potential cabinet nominees. And I would also note that many mainstream Jewish groups, and pro-Israel groups, are expressing their issues with Chuck Hagel without calling him an anti-Semite. So advocate away, I say.

My issue is different. If mainstream American Jewish leaders would go to Israel and explain to the current Israeli leadership that it must find a way out of the current impasse, and must re-order its priorities, I would be very happy. There are many people around the world with their knives out for the Jewish state, because it's a Jewish state. That's just the way it is. Israel has to figure out the smartest way to counteract the ancient, bestial urge to eliminate to hurt Jews. Lately, it has not been very good at coming up with a plan. This is the main issue for me. Today's path leads, eventually, to pariah status, and a small state like Israel can't survive  as a pariah. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/12/chuck-hagel-and-the-jews/266543/