Elliott Abrams: ‘Hagel will be confirmed, but he will be a weaker secretary of defense’

In an interview to the Israeli daily ‘Yedioth Ahronoth,’ the former neoconservative diplomat criticizes Hagel for his ‘I am an American senator’ remark.

Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea has today a short interview with Elliott Abrams on the issue of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to secretary of defense, which various Israeli advocacy groups have opposed.

Abrams opens by explaining why he believes Hagel is an anti-Semite, referring to Hagel’s past remark on “the Jewish Lobby” (by the way, this is the term Israelis use too, including most of the press. Examples: here, here, here, here, here, here).

Abrams: “I don’t hate him (Hagel). I don’t know him in person. I have friends who say they have known him for years and never heard an anti-Semitic remark from him. I think that everyone who rules out an initiative by Jews to influence American policy is an anti-Semite. That’s my definition.

“Hagel once said ‘I am not an Israeli senator, I am an American senator. My commitment is to the United States’. This wasn’t a gaffe.”


Barnea: You know that eventually he will be confirmed. The Senate usually doesn’t interfere with the president’s appointments.

Abrams: “Yes. I suppose he will be confirmed. But he will be a weaker secretary of defense. The fight against Hagel presents the Republican party as a very pro-Israeli party, which is a good thing. Second, it’s becoming clear to everyone that there is a strong pro-Israeli lobby that is relying mostly on Christians. This is not a Jewish lobby.”

The article appears only in the printed editon of the Yedioth Ahronoth, so here is a shot of the piece.

Elliott Abrams: 'Hagel will be confirmed, but he will be a weaker secretary of defense'

SNL parody of the Hagel confirmation
The Washington witch trial of Chuck Hagel
The Chuck Hagel affair and the American ‘pro-Israel’ litmus test

UPDATE: I changed the sub-headline a bit, following a Twitter conversation with Brent E. Sasley regarding the context of one of Abrams’ remarks. You can see our exchange here.