Why AIPAC should fight the Hagel nomination
Jonathan Tobin argues that AIPAC should be fighting the nomination
of Chuck Hagel to be US Secretary of Defense.\
[Hagel's] appointment signals that the administration’s election year
Jewish charm offensive during which the president stopped picking fights
with Israel and pledged not to contain Iran, but to stop the Islamic
Republic, is very much over.
The last thing AIPAC wants to do is to fight a losing battle over
Hagel in which it would get the worst of both worlds—a bad appointment
and a White House that will be interested in payback for being thwarted.
But the stakes are sufficiently high that it ought not be too difficult
a decision. If there is any chance that the nomination can be
defeated—and if reports about pro-Israel Democrats being willing to jump
ship on this issue are true, he can be —then those who wish to send the
administration a message that the country will not tolerate Obama
breaking his promises on Iran must do whatever they can to accomplish
The White House is, as Goldberg notes, sending a loud message to
AIPAC that the president will be offended if they fight him on Hagel.
The presumption is that any such decision would have a negative impact
on Obama’s continuation of policies that the lobby supports on security
cooperation with Israel.
Yet by picking Hagel for defense, what Obama has done is to signal
Israel’s friends that any expectation that he would stick to his word
about containment or the use of force against Iran is probably
unrealistic. That’s what the Iranians and Israelis are probably thinking
right now, a state of affairs that is likely to lead to trouble for the
U.S. Though it would be wrong to think that AIPAC has nothing to lose
in this battle, the consequences of allowing Hagel to skate through to
an easy confirmation are immense for the group and the U.S.-Israel
alliance. That’s especially true if a strong push from AIPAC might be
enough to nudge a critical group of pro-Israel Democratic senators to
commit to vote against him.
There are times when groups like AIPAC must play it smart and avoid
confrontations with the president. This isn’t one of them. By speaking
out forcefully, the group can transform the Hagel issue from what is
being spun in the media as GOP revenge for his opposition to the Iraq
War into a bipartisan revolt against his nomination. That’s exactly what
they should do.
Regardless of what any Jewish group does or does not do, we are in for a rough ride from Obama for the next four years. We can stand up and fight or we can just let him walk all over us. I think we need to stand up and fight.
Labels: AIPAC, Barack Hussein Obama, Chuck Hagel