Is Israel a Bit More OK with Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense Now?

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Republicans trying to raise a case against confirming Chuck Hagel have cited not so kind remarks regarding Israel as a reason not to confirm, but that could be a tougher sell now that Israel's departing Deputy Foreign Minister thinks Hagel is an alright guy.

Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall first pointed out Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon comments at a meeting with Jewish leaders Thursday. Haaretz's Chemi Chalev reports Ayalon told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that Hagel is a "decent and fair interlocutor who believes in the natural partnership between Israel and the United States."

While the list of people officially opposed to Hagel's nomination is not long, they are certainly a vocal bunch. Hagel's been hung over the fire for a number of things since rumors swirled that he would be nominated Secretary of Defense. Hagel's been criticized for his stance on same sex marriage, Iran, and just the fact that he's another white guy. He's the most controversial nomination that's sure to be confirmed. Some disparaging things Hagel said about Israel in the past have also bubbled to the surface. The idea is that Hagel's nomination might cause rifts with one of America's closest allies in an increasing volatile Middle East. 

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But now one of Israel's foreign ministers — albeit one that's on a farewell tour of the U.S. — is singing Hagel's praises. "I know Hagel personally," Ayalon told the crowd. "When I was ambassador in Washington, we had many meetings, I cannot say that we agreed on everything, but he was a decent and fair interlocutor and you can reason with him. I think he believes in the relationship, in the natural partnership between Israel and the United States." 

Update: This post originally incorrectly said there was controversy over Hagel referring to Israel as "the Jews." His controversial statement, made in 2006, was referring to the hawkish Israel lobbying groups as "the Jewish lobby."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.