Key Jewish lawmakers back Hagel

Chuck Hagel added three major Jewish Democrats to his list of endorsers, clearing his way to likely confirmation as secretary of defense.

Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Charles Schumer of New York both said they were satisfied that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, would advance the U.S.-Israel security relationship and make a priority of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Lawmakers generally take their lead on sensitive issues from colleagues who are affiliated with the interest group in question, and the endorsement of Jewish senators has been seen as critical to Hagel’s confirmation. Also endorsing Hagel was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who chairs the Democratic National Committee.

Hagel had drawn fire for his past criticisms of Israeli policy, skepticism about the efficacy of unilateral Iran sanctions, wariness of the repercussions of a military strike on Iran and willingness to engage with Iran and some terrorist groups while also maintaining degrees of isolation.

In conversations with Schumer, Boxer and Wasserman Schultz, Hagel also apologized for having said the “Jewish lobby” is “intimidating” in a 2006 interview. — jta