Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, source of past controversy on Israel, to resign

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Credit: Department of Defense.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Credit: Department of Defense.

(JNS.org) U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a past source of controversy due to his statements about Israel, will resign.

The New York Times, citing senior U.S. officials, reported Monday that President Barack Obama decided to push for Hagel’s resignation “as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require different kind[s] of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ.”

While the Times explained in its report that Hagel “came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration,” the remaining two years of Obama’s presidency “will demand a different kind of focus” from the defense secretary post, an administration official said.

A former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, Hagel came under heavy criticism from some Jewish organizations and from legislators on both sides of the political spectrum for his record on Israel during a historically tight battle for confirmation in late 2012 and early 2013. Among Hagel’s most controversial past comments was that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington, DC, a quote he gave former Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller for the book 2008 book “The Much Too Promised Land.”

In his confirmation hearing for defense secretary in January 2013, Hagel mistakenly expressed support for a U.S. policy of “containment” in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. He was eventually confirmed in a 58-41 Senate vote. Before Hagel, no defense secretary had ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes.

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