Stop the Presses: SecDef Heads to Israel Yet U.S.-Israeli Alliance Remains Intact

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DoD photo / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel shares a crystal globe, and a laugh, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, at the Pentagon March 5.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to Israel this weekend shows that the military cooperation between the two allies continues to deepen despite the dire warnings of conservatives who went to the mats in January in an all-out bid to defeat his nomination.

Relying on quotes taken out of context and in some cases wildly distorted, Hagel’s opponents gave a good impression of Chicken Little, arguing that the sky would fall on U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation if he took over at the Pentagon.

But earlier week, when Hagel came to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, everything was sweetness and light.

“My friend, Secretary – former Senator Hagel. We worked together for a long period of time. Had some difference of opinion. We’ll always remain good friends,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee. Before his confirmation, Inhofe said reports that Iranian leaders had praised Hagel’s nomination was an endorsement and “you can’t get any cozier than that.”

Far from throwing Israel under the bus, Hagel’s Pentagon has requested $220.3 million in 2014 to augment Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, despite broad cuts to U.S. military spending. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency also is requesting an additional $175.9 million in fiscal year 2015 for Israel’s homegrown missile defense network, according to the agency’s budget proposal. That’s in addition to the record $3.4 billion the U.S. will provide to Israel in military aid.

It is now clearer than ever that the attacks on Hagel were a politically-motivated attempt to damage the Obama Administration and embarrass the President, based on spurious “facts” rather than a reasoned argument against a superbly-qualified nominee.

The Israel-U.S. military relationship is important in its own terms, and for the role it plays in keeping Israelis safe. But it’s equally important in underpinning U.S. efforts to launch a new peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinians, which Secretary of State John Kerry is working hard to bring about.

Israelis will only go along with such an initiative if they feel secure. Hagel, a passionate advocate of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, is well placed to give them that sense of security.

Topping Hagel’s agenda in Israel are Iran’s nuclear program and the civil war in Syria. On Iran, Obama won an important endorsement of his policy of trying to engage the Iranians while keeping up the economic pressure on the Tehran regime from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel last month.

Nonetheless, we’ve seen in recent days some more belligerent language from top Israeli officials, including its military chief of staff, who said that Israel has the capability to attack Iran without American support. This was followed by a Senate resolution stating that if Israel were “compelled” to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program in “legitimate self defense,” the United States should “authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

To the extent that such resolutions stoke the fires of war, or encourage the Israelis to consider a unilateral military strike — especially when the diplomatic track is far from exhausted — they are unhelpful.

On Syria, the Obama Administration has been hesitant to arm the rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad because the disparate coalition of anti-Assad forces includes jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.

Hagel is likely to find the Israelis sharing his nervousness. Last week, Netanyahu warned Britain, which wants to start supplying some rebels with weapons, to be extremely cautious to carefully vet a rebel group’s intentions before sending it any arms.

In short, Hagel will be well-received in Israel during his visit as a true friend. The accusations against him have already melted into oblivion – which is where they deserve to be.

Jeremy Ben-Ami is the president and founder of J Street, the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.

12 comments
richardrothey
richardrothey

The only thing I take exception to is that I thought I was reading a news article. Pieces such as this should appropriately labeled as editorials or more appropriately as propaganda.

tmadd1956
tmadd1956 like.author.displayName 1 Like

So, do you think this writer is a conservative or a or a liberal? It's so hard to tell because he is reporting the news in such a "broad-minded" manner.

arthdenton
arthdenton

Is our deeper subservience to Israel's interests supposed to be 'good news'?

smehgol
smehgol like.author.displayName 1 Like

Since Imperial Rome, it has happened again and again. Jews enraged their host countries and repeatedly suffered disastrous pogroms. Excesses of Weimar Germany's monied Jewish minority led to the most recent which Israel promotes, actually advertises, as justification for its apartheid malevolence. “Never again” is lost on Netanyahu's Israel. Blind to history, its paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and racist empire ensures “again” on a far grander scale. Abandoning and aggressively isolating the Jewish state could force it abandon its grandiose aspirations and thereby avert its destruction. There is no greater or kinder support that America could render to both the Mideast and its “inseparable Mideast ally.”

aaron.l.dewolf
aaron.l.dewolf

They'll definitely need the missile defense after the terrorists and extremists we're supporting in Syria get their hands on Assad's chemical weapons.

henrytobias2646
henrytobias2646

In politics everyone does what they believe is in their best interests. Obama thinks it is wise for the US to help Israel, only because it is in the interests of America. He is also offering aid to the Saudis and UAE who are American allies on a par with the Mujahdeen in Afghanistan. Hagel is only doing the bidding of his boss, who in turn gets his military advice from those who are professional (at least we hope so). The politicians don't usually know much about anything, that's why the world is in such a mess. 

mrxexon
mrxexon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Tell me again why the US taxpayer is STILL giving this apartheid nation money.

We need that money right here at home. Which is where it deserves to stay.


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smehgol
smehgol like.author.displayName 1 Like

@mrxexon

Right now, right here in United States, disproportionate Israeli/Jewish media, financial and political control is rampant. Our country, not just Palestine, has been occupied by Israel. The Wall Street felons remaining unpunished and AIPAC actually writing congressional legislation attest to the depth of the occupation.

Once great America has been bankrupted by: 1. Our Mideast wars instigated by Israel. 2. Our support for Israel’s Mideast conquests. 3.The Great Recession felonies of Wall Street Jewish Americans and their traitorous Jewish American government enablers.

As a post WW2 student, I was proud of my country's heritage of democracy, honor, justice, opportunity and stature among nations. Today, I grieve for our diminished America, for our future, for our children and grandchildren.

henrytobias2646
henrytobias2646

@mrxexon What do you know about apartheid? Obviously nothing

mrxexon
mrxexon like.author.displayName 1 Like

@henrytobias2646 @mrxexon  

 I grew up in Alabama. Saw the whole civil rights movement first-hand.  And the whites only drinking fountains. And the whites only swimming pool. The side entrance for the town clinic was for "colored" people. So, yes. I know about apartheid.

All those Jew only settlements that Israel is building is the same as saying white only. You're wrong for having this kind of segregation, and people like me can't rest until it's been brought down.

Educating the American public about is instrumental in doing just that. Because without US support, Israel can't continue down this chosen road of apartheid.


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