When Chuck Hagel’s name was floated as a likely candidate to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, New York Senator Chuck Schumer expressed concern, citing Hagel’s past statements about Israel and his voting record.
Gaining the support of Schumer, a leading Democrat, was considered crucial for the nomination to be approved by the senate. Last Tuesday, a day after a private meeting with the nominee, Schumer announced that he would back Hagel, saying that his concerns had been allayed.
On Friday, Schumer during an interview with radio host Nachum Segal, revealed that President Barack Obama asked him to meet with Hagel before making a decision.
“I sat down with him for 90 minutes. And I asked him many, many probing questions. I asked him point-blank these questions about Iran, about Israel and the Palestinians, about Hizbullah, about Hamas. All the things that I’ve spent my life standing for and fighting for. And his answers were not pat, were not check-the-box,” Schumer insisted. “You know, Nachum, I’ve been around, I’ve been in politics 37 years. And I’ve been fooled on occasion, but not too often…”
The New York Senator argued that he found Hagel’s new stance on Israel to be genuine.
“…He was sincere. He basically said, Look, the bottom line is, the world has changed since 2005, 6 and 7. Iran is far more dangerous and far more militant than it was then, everyone would agree with that.”
Schumer also said that his determination not to create a schism between the Jewish community and the Obama administration was also a consideration.
“G-d forbid we have to use the military option, and we may, to prevent a nuclear Iran. We are going to need a unified Administration, Jewish community and Israel. For Israel to do this alone would be far less effective and worse than doing it if, G-d forbid it has to happen in concert with the U.S.
“And you know, this is the worst time to have a real schism. And it’s not an accident that neither APAC, which is stalwart for Israel, I’ve worked with them for all the 30 years I’ve been in Congress, or AJC or even Abe Foxman did not come out against Hagel,” he said.