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NE: Omaha rabbi excited at prospect of Hagel as defense secretary

By   /   December 18, 2012  /   15 Comments

HAGEL: Republican Chuck Hagel endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Bob Kerrey right before the November election. Photo by Bethany Schmidt/Nebraska Watchdog

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN – While some Jewish organizations have come out against the possible nomination of Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of Temple Israel in Omaha is excited at the prospect.

Azriel has invited Hagel to speak at his temple in the past.

“I actually like him a lot,” said Azriel, who grew up in Israel. “I find him extremely open-minded, definitely understanding the Middle East extremely well.”

And while the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest Jewish organization in America, is lobbying against Hagel’s nomination due to his past positions on Israel and Iran, Azriel thinks Hagel is the right man for the job.

“He understands both sides of the conflict,” Azriel said. “The situation is pretty frozen there in the Middle East.”

He fears a third intifada is on the horizon if something doesn’t change – while the ZOA calls Hagel a “frightening and dangerous apologist for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah.” The group also warns that if President Obama nominates Hagel, it will confirm fears that he’s no friend of Israel.

Azriel doesn’t see it that way. He had a three-hour conversation with Hagel about the Middle East after he visited the temple.

“People who know Chuck Hagel actually think that this is the right person,” he said. “I found him extremely intelligent, with new fresh ideas. I developed serious trust in him.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition has come out against Hagel’s appointment, and he’s been criticized by the National Jewish Democratic Council for urging Obama to directly negotiate with Hamas, blocking an Iran sanctions bill, refusing to formally call on the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization and refusing to sign a Senate letter of support of Israel.

“This does not scare me,” Azriel said. “I would be talking to the devil if I need to make peace in the Middle East. … There’s no way to create peace without talking to some groups that are not palatable.”

Richard Robinson, a Norfolk steel distributor who is Jewish and a member of Temple Israel, considers Hagel a very close friend he met when Hagel was preparing to run for the U.S. Senate.

“I think he’s a very smart man,” Robinson said. “He’s a tremendously independent person and he is a big picture person. I think that anyone who insinuates he’s anti-Israel or anti-Semitic is full of crap.”

The heat Hagel is getting is indicative of the state of U.S. politics, Robinson said. He said Hagel was right when he said in a 2006 interview: “I’m a United States senator, not an Israeli senator.” He said he supported Israel but, “my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel.”

He’s talked to Hagel about what’s going on now, and Hagel said, “It’s a little bit of politics.”

“He always believes in talking before fighting,” Robinson said. “This is a very open-minded fair man who looks at the world in the big picture.”

Contact Deena Winter at [email protected].

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Dave Fall

    If you know and express any understanding about Palestine you are immediately anti-Semite or anti-Israeli. It is ludicrous.

  • Bam

    If you refuse to sign a letter supporting Israel, doesn’t it stand to reason you do not support Israel?

  • Goblin Shark

    Who cares? This is the United Staes.

  • Bam

    Do you mean when you served in the military before you were drummed out? I get the feeling you’d tell Britain to pound sand when Hitler was rolling across Europe. “Sorry, Winston – it’s not in our constitution to back allies!”

  • We’ve become so supportive of Israel, for appearance sake, that we allow their Government to constantly thumb their noses at the people palestine, such as the building of new communities in the disputed areas.
    I realize that some, in the arab countries, say they want to see Israel wiped of the face of the earth. I dont believe that most Arabs think that way.

  • That is what our country did for over a year before entering the war. We’ve often left allies hanging. Poland in WWII is a very sad case. Starting with WWII, the United States Government has abandoned nearly 55,000 American military personnel to the USSR, China, Viet Nam, and North Korea.
    After WWII, the Soviets refused to return American & British GI’s that were “LIBERATED” from German POW camps.

  • resistwemuch


  • Goblin Shark

    You’d better watch what you say about my military service. Your comment was disrespectful and shameful. I’ll be more than willing to meet you or anyone else to compare honorable discharges.

  • Bam

    No we haven’t been isolationist for the majority of our history. Do you know the Marines song? “…to the shores of Tripoli”? That goes back to 1805 – you obviously don’t know history.

    We also haven’t been “extreme fawning” over Israel. We supported it in its creation and since. No one cares about Hagel’s support of Japan or Columbia because neither one is surrounded by neighbors that have threatened to wipe them from the face of the earth.

    You know, with your not wanting us involved in WWII and willingness to throw Israel under the bus, did your “honorable” discharge come from Herr Hitler’s army?

  • enubus

    Just remember, all the Islamics want is a worldwide caliphate under Sharia law, including the so-called Palastinian scum. Chuckie is perfect for Obozo!

  • Jazzee

    and they are getting it…Egypt Sharia and so the rest will be
    amen he is perfect for obozo…..two peas in a pod
    chuckie ain’t no conservative

  • Goblin Shark

    That song isn’t from 1805, it’s not even from 1905. Get it straight. The Battle of Deme did occur in 1805, though, but that wasn’t America getting involved in world affairs, that was America protecting its commerce. And I never once said I didn’t want us involved in WWII. Since you’ve not stepped up to take my offer, I’m assuming you have no discharge, or it’s not honorable. You’ll be ignored from this point forward.

  • Bam

    Oh God… it took you a full week to further embed yourself as a moron blogger? I’d like to discharge all over your face at this point.

  • MalcolmTheProfessor

    There is much conflicting comments on Hegel and I had hoped this article would shed some light on specific positive things about him. However, the best said is opinion that he is smart and has good ideas. Can anyone cite anything specific? Otherwise Hegel’s negative actions are scary for the the U.S. and Israel. Now let me get this straight, Hegel thinks we should just talk to Iran while they develop nuclear bombs and missiles that can reach San Francisco. And if Israel would just sit down for a chit-chat with Hamas, who doesn’t recognize Israel and wouldn’t show up, Hamas would stop lobbing rockets into Israeli schools.