Israelis worried over Hagel’s nomination

US President Barack Obama (L) and formerFormer Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R) has been nominated by US President Barack Obama as the country’s next secretary of defense (file photo).

Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has expressed worry over the nomination of former US Senator Chuck Hagel as the next American defense secretary, amid similar reactions invoked by the regime’s backers in the US.

Israel should be “concerned, but not afraid of Hagel’s isolationist ideas,” said Rivlin, an ally of hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and fellow member of his Likud Party, AP reported Tuesday.

“Because of his statements in the past and his stance toward Israel, we are worried,” Rivlin said of the former Republican Senator from Nebraska.

Hagel, meanwhile, has insisted on his support of Israel and made clear in a Monday interview that his critics have “completely distorted” his record on Israel and that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israel.”

However, Hagel made clear that he has previously refused to sign a number of pro-Israeli resolution and letters supported by large majorities of US lawmakers when he was in office from 1997 to 2009 because they “were counter-productive and didn’t solve a problem.”

Hagel, who chairs the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, has been critical of powerful Jewish and other pro-Israeli lobby groups in the US and reportedly stated that “the Jewish lobby [in the US] intimidates a lot of people here” and does some “dumb things” that aren’t “smart for Israel.”

The former senator has also been widely quoted as saying that “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.”

“I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States, not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel,” Hagel has further been quoted as saying.

Such independent remarks by Hagel, however, have enraged many Israelis and Jewish groups in the US, which have labeled him an anti-Semite or anti-Israel.

Furthermore, Israeli media outlets have widely described Hagel as “cool toward Israel” while some press reports have quoted an unnamed Israeli diplomatic source as saying that the Hagel nomination for the Pentagon is “very bad news for Israel.”

Additionally, many pro-Israeli Republican and conservatives lawmakers and groups in the US have expressed harsh criticism of Hagel’s nomination by President Barack Obama, claiming that his confirmation would further isolate the Israeli regime.

Veteran Republican Senator from North Carolina, Lindsey Graham, a Christian conservative that fervently advocates Israel’s interests in all US foreign policy decisions, described Hagel’s nomination a “controversial choice” in Monday interview.

Graham further insisted that if fellow Republican Hagel is confirmed by the Senate, he “would be the most antagonistic defense secretary” toward the Israel regime “in our nation’s history.”