We congratulate Senator Chuck Hagel who was confirmed today by the Senate to become our nation’s next Secretary of Defense – despite an unprecedented smear campaign intended to unjustly blacken his name and damage the presidency of Barack Obama.
J Street was the first pro-Israel organization to back Hagel because of his well-documented and long-standing commitment to America’s and Israel’s security coupled with his recognition that achieving a two-state solution is ultimately the only way to secure Israel’s future for generations to come. His courage to speak about the threats Israel faces as well as his willingness to come out against a war and occupation in Iraq that cost the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, demonstrate that he places a higher premium on his strategic analysis than on political posturing – a characteristic that will serve him well as he enters the administration. It is precisely Hagel’s understanding that war should always be the final option that will make him an outstanding Secretary of Defense.
It was very unfortunate that some of Hagel’s opponents felt the need to spend vast sums of money to mount a campaign of slander and innuendo against him.Though some of his critics raised legitimate points, which the Senator answered convincingly, others had no compunction in using half truths and outright lies against him. This campaign ultimately failed setting an important precedent. Hopefully, qualified candidates will no longer be prevented from serving the nation by “Swift Boat”-style attacks that distort their records and caricature their beliefs.
We look forward to Senator Hagel playing an integral role in President Obama’s second administration. Sustained and substantive diplomatic US leadership will be necessary to help Israelis and Palestinians reach peace. Chuck Hagel will add a powerful voice to those of us who believe that a two-state solution is not just fundamental to Israel if it is to remain both Jewish and democratic, but fundamental also to America if we are to succeed in promoting security and stability in the Middle East and the world.