President Barack Obama on Monday nominated former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, who has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for his record on Israel, for secretary of defense.Hagel chairs the Atlantic Council think tank, which last month published a column titled “Israel’s Apartheid Policy.” In 2008, he infamously took a direct shot at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, telling former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller in a quote that appeared in Miller’s book, The Much Too Promised Land, that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington.Reacting to the Hagel nomination on Monday, the National Jewish Democratic Council said that although there have been concerns about Hagel, “setting policy starts and stops” with Obama. “While we have expressed concerns in the past, we trust that when confirmed, former Senator Chuck Hagel will follow the president’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel – on strategic cooperation, missile defense programs, and leading the world against Iran’s nuclear program,” NJDC said in a statement.When Hagel was being considered for the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board appointment in 2009, Ira Forman – then the director of NJDC and the Obama campaign’s Jewish outreach director in 2012 – opposed the move.“If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we’d have real concerns,” Forman said at the time.NJDC also doubted Hagel’s credentials in 2007, when the senator was considering a run for president, saying he “has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.” The Republican Jewish Coalition on Monday called the Hagel nomination “a blow to US-Israel relations, to the president’s relationship with the American Jewish community, and to US security in the Middle East.”“It signals that the president, having been re-elected, will now distance himself from Israel,” RJC executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “We hope that when Senator Hagel’s weak record is laid on the table, senators will rightly decline to support his nomination.”American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris said on Monday that “there are serious concerns about Hagel’s commitments to the efficacy of sanctions and a credible military option against Iran; on pressing the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; on sustaining the US policy on the terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza; on the special nature of the US-Israel relationship and Israel’s quest for peace and security; and on gay rights.”Harris said in a statement that while the president “has the prerogative to select members of his cabinet,” the Senate “is obligated to probe the record and vision of every nominee.”“While AJC honors Senator Hagel’s record of service to our country and the people of Nebraska, his statements and actions on a range of core US national security priorities raise questions that require clarification,” Harris said.Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman said Monday that Hagel “would not have been my first choice,” but added that he respects “the president’s prerogative.”Like AJC’s Harris, Foxman looked forward to the Senate confirmation process as a chance to address concerns about Hagel.“I particularly hope Senator Hagel will clarify and explain his comments about the ‘Jewish Lobby’ that were hurtful to many in the Jewish Community,” Foxman said in a statement. A NUMBER of senators last month had already vowed to press Hagel on his “Jewish lobby” comment during the confirmation process. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he knows of no “Jewish lobby” and hopes Hagel “would identify who that is.” Sen.Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Hagel will “have to answer” for his Jewish lobby comment if nominated for defense secretary.“I don’t agree with that [‘Jewish lobby’] statement [by Hagel],” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said. “If he is nominated, there’ll be a hearing. His entire public record and all his public pronouncements will be reviewed as a part of that process. And we’ll move on from there.”When rumors of Hagel’s nomination surfaced last month, the RJC pointed to a number of letters signed by most other senators but not by Hagel: an August 2006 letter asking the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization (12 senators did not sign), a November 2001 letter asking then-president George W. Bush not to meet Yasser Arafat until Arafat took steps to end violence against Israel (11 senators did not sign) and an October 2000 letter in support of Israel (four senators did not sign).But on Monday, Hagel told the Lincoln Journal Star that critics have “completely distorted” his record on Israel and that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli.”“I didn’t sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn’t solve a problem,” he said.Sen. Jack Reed (R-RI) last month defended Hagel’s appointment on the basis of his time as a Vietnam veteran.“Chuck Hagel has the experience as a combat veteran with two Purple Hearts and an understanding that the decisions that are made in Washington ultimately are carried out by young men and women across the globe,” Reed told Politico. “That is a very important intellectual, emotional asset.”Additionally, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Hagel would be “very well-qualified” for defense secretary, despite his disagreement with the former senator’s “Jewish lobby” comment.But Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) was among a number of Democrats who immediately opposed a Hagel appointment when the rumors of one began last month. She said in a statement that Hagel’s “dismal record on issues affecting the Middle East stands in sharp contrast to the stated policies of our nation.”Hagel on Israel - in lettersOn the day when President Barack Obama nominated former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary, the National Jewish Democratic Council said that despite expressing concerns about Hagel in the past, it believed Hagel would “follow the President’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel – on strategic cooperation, missile defense programs, and leading the world against Iran’s nuclear program.”When it comes to putting pen to paper, where has Hagel previously stood on foreign policy matters pertaining to Israel and the Middle East? In his 2008 book The Much Too Promised Land, Aaron David Miller recounts a conversation with Hagel as follows: “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, Hagel continued, and ‘then you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters’ – because, he added, they were ‘stupid.’” Hagel, who served in the Senate from January 1997 to January 2009, was telling Miller the truth about his letter-signing history.Below are the highlights of letters signed by large majorities of the US Senate, noting whether or not Hagel signed them. On Monday, Hagel told the Lincoln Journal Star regarding this issue, “I didn’t sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counterproductive and didn’t solve a problem.”MARCH 2009Letter: Asking Obama to open direct talks with Hamas leaders Number of signatories: 10 (former and current policy officials, not only serving senators) Hagel: Signed (after he had already left the Senate) JUNE 2008Letter: Reiterating Israel’s right to self-defense, calling on the US to stand strongly with Israel at the UN and urging pressure on Arab states to do more to support Israeli-Palestinian talks Number of signatories: 77 Hagel: Did not sign MARCH 2007 Letter: Request for “no direct aid and no contacts with any members of a Palestinian Authority that does not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous agreements” Number of signatories: 79 Hagel: Did not sign AUGUST 2006 Letter: Asking the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization Number of signatories: 88 Hagel: Did not sign DECEMBER 2005 Letter: Asking president George W. Bush to place pressure on the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections Number of signatories: 73 Hagel: Did not sign JUNE 2005 Letter: Supporting Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “act decisively to assert his control over the disparate, armed groups in Gaza and the West Bank” Number of signatories: 77 Hagel: Did not sign NOVEMBER 2001 Letter: Asking Bush not to meet Yasser Arafat until Arafat took steps to end violence against Israel Number of signatories: 89 Hagel: Did not sign OCTOBER 2000 Letter: Expressing support for Israel after the start of the second intifada Number of signatories: 96 Hagel: Did not sign MARCH 1999Resolution: Opposing the unilateral declaration of an independent state by the Palestinians Votes in support: 98 Hagel: Voted yes APRIL 1998 Letter: Asking president Bill Clinton not to pressure Israel into accepting a peace proposal with the Palestinians “which is known to be unacceptable.”Number of signatories: 81 Hagel: Did not signLetters and signatories obtained from the archives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Virtual Library.