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CUFI lobbies against Hagel appointment
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
01/30/2013
Christian pro-Israel group say Hagel endangers US, Israel security as he demonstrates a blind spot to the Iranian nuclear threat.
 
WASHINGTON – Two days before the US Senate holds hearings on the nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense, a pro-Israel advocacy group headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to lobby against his confirmation.

Christians United for Israel said that more than 400 pastors and lay leaders from 46 states answered their call to come to Washington to express their concerns about the former Republican senator from Nebraska just six days after being approached by the organization.

“The response far surpassed our expectations,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director, who added it was a sign of the deep reservations the organization’s membership had about Hagel holding the top job at the Pentagon.

“The focus of our message is that this is a nominee who is far outside of the mainstream and who has demonstrated a blind spot to the greatest threat to not only our ally Israel but also America... an Iran determined to acquire nuclear weapons,” said Brog.

He calculated that CUFI activists would meet with 78 senate offices over the course of the day, including as many as 50 senators themselves. During their meetings, the activists planned to note that 22,000 emails from CUFI supporters have already been sent to senators opposing Hagel’s nomination.

“It is time senators hear from their constituents who have very strong feelings that this nominee endangers our security and our ally Israel’s,” said Brog.

The organization is backing up its personal visits with full-page advertisements in four states – Colorado, North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana – calling for senators to vote against Hagel.

But not all pro-Israel groups are opposed to Hagel, and several on the dovish side of the spectrum have expressed their support for the nominee.

The progressive lobby J Street has sent emails to Senate offices affirming support and describing Hagel as a friend of Israel and an exceptional choice to be secretary of defense.

On Wednesday, J Street will hold a conference call for media with Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles and former representative Robert Wexler touting Hagel’s experience.

Though several Republican senators have indicated they will vote against his confirmation, Democrats hold the majority of the Senate, so chances for Hagel’s approval are strong.

Some of the Democratic senators who seemed reluctant to support Hagel, particularly senior Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, have since indicated they will back him.

Brog acknowledged that Schumer’s decision to back Hagel made for an uphill climb against his confirmation, but he maintained “it’s still possible to shift the momentum against Hagel.”

And whether or not he’s confirmed, Brog argued, CUFI’s advocacy now should pay dividends.

“It’s very important to make these criticisms, to take these stands and draw these lines [because] that will impact his behavior and the administration’s behavior going forward,” he said.

Obama’s choice for secretary of state, John Kerry, has met with considerably less controversy. Following a relatively smooth confirmation hearing last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Kerry is currently the chair, approved his nomination in a voice vote. The whole Senate is widely expected to follow suit.
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