During last Thursday’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense, the obvious focus was on Hagel’s rather lackluster attempts to explain, justify, and repeatedly apologize for troubling statements he has made in the past, as well as a questionable voting record.
What also emerged during the course of those contentious eight hours was the singular commitment to Israel’s security that was voiced and exhibited by many senators on this important committee.
As the acrimonious exchange between Senator McCain and Hagel over the latter’s opposition to the surge in Iraq proved, there was more than a single aspect of Hagel’s record that GOP senators found troubling. The fact that so much of the hearing was specifically dedicated to the Israel–U.S. relationship is testament to just how much importance they assign to this historic bond.
When a senator representing New York, Florida, or other states with sizable Jewish populations stresses unwavering support for Israel, it is reasonable to presume that that position may be influenced by a desire to be re-elected.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand did, indeed, begin her questioning by seeking assurances regarding Hagel’s positions on Israel. Yet it was senators such as James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Ted Cruz of Texas who presented a strident, detailed, and persuasive critique of Hagel’s past comments.
The estimated Jewish population of Oklahoma is 4,700, which comprises about one-tenth of one percent of the electorate. South Carolina’s Jewish population is thought to be approximately 12,000, which makes up one-third of a single percentage point.
There are about 139,000 Jews living in Texas these days, but that’s out of 25 million residents, comprising just over one-half of one percent of the electorate.
Clearly, these elected officials aren’t doing this to win votes. They, along with many of their colleagues, are pro-Israel because they recognize the pivotal role that America’s closest ally, and the only true democracy in the Middle East, plays in ensuring America’s security interest in that tinderbox of the world.
Despite the skewed anti-Israel bias that defines the approach of the United Nations as well as much of the mainstream media, these senators have not lost sight of concepts such as truth and justice. For that, they deserve our gratitude and admiration.