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The Hagel Narrative the Neocons Want

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President Obama made Hagel co-chair of that Intelligence Advisory Committee. To fail to nominate him now as defense secretary would be a sign that the President listens more to the neocon narrative feeders than he does to knowledgeable peace-oriented Jewish groups and the established foreign policy leadership community.

The President must make his decision soon. Before he does, he would benefit from considering how the current narrative looks to veteran Jewish journalist James Besser, Washington correspondent for The Jewish Week from 1987 to 2011.

In a New York Times column, December 27, Besser looked back over his years in Washington:

"Fifteen years ago, Mr. Hagel -- whose sins include advocating dialogue to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and suggesting that many on Capitol Hill are afraid of the "Jewish lobby" -- would have been deemed someone Israel's supporters in Washington could work with.

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"Today mainstream Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, are either silent about the mounting controversy or offering cautious support for those who want to kill Mr. Hagel's nomination. They have been driven into silence and submission by a radical fringe that in no way represents the American Jewish mainstream.

"Groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee were created to foster strong American-Israeli ties and to promote the idea that a vibrant, democratic Israel is a critical American ally in an undemocratic region -- a job they have done remarkably well in recent years.

"But as the debate over the best route to peace for the Jewish state has become more bitterly polarized, groups like Aipac, the A.D.L. and the A.J.C. have undercut and obscured that message by refusing to distance themselves from extremists.

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"Intimidated by pro-settler zealots, right-wing donors and those who liken the slightest criticism of Israeli policy to Israel-bashing (or even anti-Semitism), pro-Israel leaders are increasingly allowing the fringes of their movement to set the pro-Israel agenda in Washington."

President Obama's choice would appear to be simple, go with his initial preference and nominate Hagel, or allow the neocon narrative to prevail.

It is not an exaggeration to see this one appointment as one that will define who will run the Obama White House for the next four years.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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