The author whose 2008 interview of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has been used for political attacks against Hagel blamed a “cosmic oy vey” on Saturday for what he suggested was a false controversy surrounding Hagel’s possible nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense.
“It’s the inability of many in the American Jewish community to look at the relationship between the U.S. and Israel as a real, living relationship driven by political realities, by strategic realities, and, sometimes — I know it’s a shocker — the diverging interests that separate the U.S. and Israel,” former State Department advisor Aaron David Miller told MSNBC host Chris Hayes.
During his interview with Miller, Hagel said that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington, something he opposed at times because he didn’t believe it was in the best interest of Israel. That statement, Hayes said, led to conservatives vowing to “make sure America knows he is an anti-Semite” after Hagel’s name was leaked as a possibility for the cabinet post.
Foreign Policy magazine reported on Friday that Rep. David Engel (D-NY) joined the chorus against Hagel in an interview with C-SPAN.
“I think that remark is troublesome, it’s problematic,” said Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It shows at the very best a lack of sensitivity, at the very worst perhaps a prejudice. And I’m concerned about it, I’m concerned about the nomination,” Engel said. “If I were doing the appointing, I would not appoint Chuck Hagel.”
But regardless of whether Hagel is nominated for the position, Miller said he believes the former senator is not an anti-Semite.
“He is not an enemy of the state of Israel,” said Miller, who specialized in Arab-Israeli negotiations during his 24 years working in the State Department. “I would argue he’s not even hostile to the state of Israel. Chuck Hagel, during the course of our interview, said some things that go beyond what I would argue are the sort of norms that you do not hear expressed in Congress. The reality is, Hagel believes in a special relationship with Israel, but not an exclusive relationship.”
Watch Miller weigh in on the opposition to Hagel’s nomination, aired Saturday on MSNBC, below.