No Win for the Jews

No Win for the Jews

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Hagel nomination has a number of dimensions to it which are troublesome to many different groups. Within the Jewish community there are a variety or opinions as well as recommendations concerning whether the Senate should or should not approve his nomination. These include those who absolutely oppose him; those who support him; those who oppose him for other reasons; and those who may have feelings about the issue but believe the President should have the right to select whomever he wants for his Cabinet because they will always be accountable to Congress.

The problem that appears to be mounting for Democratic Jewish Members of Congress is whether and to what extent they should follow those Jewish constituents who are looking to them to oppose Hagel and to lead the opposition within the Senate. This appears to be especially true for Senator Chuck Schumer who is perceived today—with the retirement of Joe Lieberman—to be the key leading Jewish voice in the Senate. According to Politico not only is his leadership key, he has yet to decide whether or not to support the nomination. He will have a so-called courtesy visit with Hagel this week, which could be crucial. (Curiously, the Hagel hearings will also place significant pressure on New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand–who takes much of her lead especially on matters of concern to New York’s Jewish community from Schumer–who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee which will be conducting the Hagel confirmation hearing. The Committee is also chaired by a leading Jewish Senator, Carl Levin, who has indicated his support for the Hagel nomination.)

For the Jewish community, it appears that regardless of whether Hagel is or is not confirmed–unless the confirmation hearings drift totally away from Jews and Israel—Jews will be blamed. If he is defeated or has his name withdrawn, the Jews could well be blamed. His defeat would be blamed on Jewish pressure. If he is confirmed, despite the efforts of the Jews to defeat him, many in the Jewish community and the pro-Israel community believe that this action will diminish Jewish support from the Obama Administration down the road.

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