Obama’s Top Jewish Dem Opposes Hagel pick

Ira Forman / NJDC
December 14, 2012

President Barack Obama’s Jewish point man has expressed fierce opposition to the prospect of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) serving in a senior role in the Obama administration.

Hagel, who is the leading candidate to become the next defense secretary, has faced tough opposition from pro-Israel leaders and many Democrats for what they say are his troubling foreign policy views, which include sharp criticism of Israel.

Ira Forman, who served as Obama’s Jewish outreach director during the 2012 presidential campaign, has dubbed Hagel a concerning candidate.

"If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we'd have real concerns," Forman said in 2009, when he served as executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).

Hagel was rumored at the time to be Obama’s choice for co-chair of the President's National Intelligence Advisory Board, a position in which he currently serves.

Forman went on to state at the time that the NJDC would fight Hagel’s appointment "to any position that had influence over U.S.-Israel relations," according to the Weekly Standard.

Forman’s NJDC went to great lengths to disqualify Hagel over the years, even releasing a comprehensive fact sheet outlining the former Senator’s "questionable Israel record."

Hagel, for instance, was just one of four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter supporting Israel in October 2000, the NJDC reported.

Hagel was one of just 12 senators who refused to petition the European Union to identify Hezbollah as a terrorist group in August 2006, according to the NJDC fact sheet, which listed multiple instances along these lines.

Hagel additionally supports direct unconditional talks with Iran.

The Washington Free Beacon reported Thursday that Hagel is paid to advise a bank that is under investigation for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The NJDC reminded its fellow Democrats that Hagel won plaudits from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group known to be anti-Israel.

"Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel," CAIR wrote in 2006, according to the NJDC. "The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel."

Jewish Democrats continue to oppose the president’s consideration of Hagel.

"I don't think that this will actually happen, but a Hagel pick at Defense would be nearly indefensible for pro-Israel Democrats," one Jewish Democratic insider told the Free Beacon.

Forman did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment about Hagel.