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Knesset Speaker says US Defence Secretary nominee worries Israel

February 4, 2014 at 10:45 am

The Speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has described President Barack Obama’s nominee as Defence Secretary as a “source of concern” to Israel. Reuven Rivlin said that Chuck Hagel’s “anti-Jewish state” comments are “ominous”. Hagel has already confirmed his “full support” for Israel after he was criticised by fellow Republicans for his positions on Middle East issues.

“Hagel’s appointment not only affects Israel,” claimed Rivlin, “but also the entire global strategic balance.” His “theory of comfortable isolation” instead of military intervention changes US strategy in world affairs, said the Knesset Speaker.

Rivlin is a member of the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This principle should worry but not scare Israel,” he said, even though Hagel is opposed to sanctions against Iran and has called for talks with Hamas. “The strategic partnership between Israel and the United States is ‘very close’ and US policy is not determined by one man.”

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper commented that having Defence Secretary Hagel in the Pentagon would represent “the worst nightmare for Israel and for the next right-wing government after the elections”, referring to Netanyahu’s likely victory in Israel’s general election later this month.

According to Israel Today, which is close to Netanyahu, a senior political source believes that Obama’s nomination of Hagel indicates that the US president “wants to be a good policeman during his second term”, but was equally cautious about what it means for Israel. “Things won’t be good after Hagel’s appointment, although we will have to wait and see how he affects US policy towards Israel.” The same source does not expect America’s $3 billion of aid annually to Israel to be reduced following Hagel’s appointment.