Hagel reassures Jewish leaders on Iran position

Nominee for defense secretary says he's on board with Obama's posture on Iran, need to maintain Israel's military edge.

By JTA
January 22, 2013 12:42
1 minute read.
US President Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel

US President Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel 390. (photo credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

 
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WASHINGTON - In a meeting with Jewish leaders, Chuck Hagel, US President Obama's defense secretary nominee, affirmed his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge.

"[Sen. Hagel] discussed his commitment to the US-Israel relationship, including his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, and to sustaining the Obama administration’s unprecedented security cooperation with Israel," a statement Tuesday from Hagel's office said. "He appreciated the opportunity to have a constructive, informed and wide-ranging discussion."

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A four-sentence statement Monday issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations described the January 18 meeting as "an important opportunity for a serious and thorough discussion of key issues of importance to all of us."

The statement, which also noted the presence at the meeting of US Vice President Joe Biden as well as the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, did not further elaborate.

The meeting came days after after Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, conferred with top Jewish Democrats and apologized for a 2006 comment in which he described the "Jewish lobby" as "intimidating" and reassured them that despite his past skepticism of some sanctions on Iran and wariness of a military strike to keep it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he was now on board with President Obama's postures on those issues.

Hagel, in those conversations with Jewish Democrats, also said he was a strong supporter of the US-Israel relationship although and elaborated on the context of his past criticisms of Israel.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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