Hagel Confirmed as Defense Chief
The U.S. Senate approved Chuck Hagel to become secretary of defense Tuesday on a 58-41 vote, ending the tiresome debate over whether the former Republican senator from Nebraska is pro-Israel enough or anti-Iran enough or pro-Iraq-war enough or gay-neutral enough or even pro-America enough.
Republicans had filibustered the nomination for almost two weeks, although there was always an expectation that Hagel would get an up-or-down vote Feb. 26.
Sure enough, 18 Republicans joined 53 Democrats in voting to end the filibuster Tuesday, clearing the way for the final vote, in which Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Nebraska joined all 54 Democrats in voting yes, The Washington Post reports.
Hagel might not be an ideal choice to run the Pentagon, but the opposition to his nomination became increasingly absurd, culminating in reports that he had taken money from a nonexistent group called Friends of Hamas after a joke question ran rampant. Alan Elsner at The Times of Israel goes so far as to argue that Hagel’s foes should be ashamed of their tactics (although Elsner should be a bit abashed about falling back on the trite McCarthy-Welsh anecdote).
Plus, the ridiculous idea that senators were blocking him because Israel didn’t want him to be defense secretary was poison to the U.S.-Israel relationship and delighted true Israel-haters such as Stephen Walt.
Israel, by the way, welcomed Hagel’s confirmation.
So we should be glad the whole thing is over. After all, Hagel’s job is to implement President Barack Obama’s military policies, not to wield U.S. military power however he wants.
Elsewhere around the web:
• This is what U.S.-Israel defense cooperation is all about: a successful test of the joint Arrow 3 missile defense system.
• Not every ambassador’s wife can say Jefferson Airplane recorded a song about her, but one who can is Sally Oren, the wife of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, according to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
• Goldberg, in his Bloomberg incarnation, also reminds us that regardless of whether Haman truly lived and died long ago in Shushan, his modern incarnation, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is real and plotting from Persia today to destroy the world’s Jews simply for being Jews.
• Meanwhile, Jon Stewart opened Wednesday’s “The Daily Show” with an extended riff on New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s bad decision to dress in blackface as a basketball player for Purim. The best parts come when Stewart goes to Senior Purim Correspondent Jessica Williams, who decries the war on Purim (the “10th most important Jewish holiday!”), makes a noble effort to use terms such as “shande” and “mishegas” (although she butchers “chag Purim sameach”), spins the grogger at the mention of Haman, and laments that in the year 5773, we should see such 56th-century thinking.
• Israel is remarkable in many ways, but perhaps nothing in the past 15 years is more impressive than this: Israeli innovation, conservation and determination, with a little help from the rain, have defeated the long-term drought and secured the nation’s water needs for at least the next decade, The Times of Israel reports in an extensive interview with Water Authority head Alexander Kushnir. Israel now manufactures half the water it uses each year. Israelis won’t be wasting water by washing their cars daily or anything like that, but neither should they see the Sea of Galilee again approach the environmentally dangerous black line.
• The first rocket since November flew from Gaza into Israel on Tuesday, striking a road in Ashkelon, and Israel responded by closing a crossing into Gaza, The Algemeiner reports.
• Unfortunately, Gaza still qualifies as quiet compared with the West Bank, where protests are continuing after the death of Palestinian Arafat Jaradat in Israeli custody, Ynet reports. Israel is considering the inclusion of international observers in its inquiry into Jaradat’s death, The Jerusalem Post says, as Israel strives to avoid what seems the almost inevitable launch of a third intifada in time for Obama’s visit in three weeks.
• Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t a weak leader, Al-Monitor’s Ben Caspit writes; instead, Israel has lacked a strong leader to match him as a peace partner. I’m not sure it’s actually one or the other.
• New Knesset member Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid made a strong first impression by turning her inaugural speech into a Talmud lesson. Now the Jewish Journal’s Shmuel Rosner helps us get to know her and her political goals better.
• Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a ruling coalition don’t appear to be getting any easier. Two parties that once figured to form the core of the government with Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu bloc, Yesh Atid and Jewish Home, have united in opposition to the deal the prime minister signed with Tzipi Livni to bring her Hatnua into the coalition, The Times of Israel says. The hang-up could be Livni’s role in the peace process.
• Netanyahu’s coalition woes have raised the possibility of Labor joining the government and Yesh Atid and Jewish Home leading the opposition instead of vice versa. That’s still not likely, but Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich has shifted from absolute refusal to partner with Netanyahu to saying she might join the coalition if the prime minister could offer a historic peace deal, The Jerusalem Post reports. Meanwhile, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid is lining up support to be the opposition leader, Israel Hayom says.
• European Union diplomats have produced a harsh report on Israeli settlements and the value of trade sanctions to stop them, but new efforts along the lines of boycott, divestment and sanction are unlikely, The Times of Israel says.
• The ADL was less than thrilled with Seth MacFarlane’s “Jews control Hollywood” shtick during the Oscars on Sunday night, but Open Zion’s Mira Sucharov argues that the real damage MacFarlane did was to reinforce a siege mentality in the Jewish community. On the plus side, Daniel Day-Lewis set the record for most best-actor Oscars with his “Lincoln” win. The Forward rounds up the Jewish post-Oscars star gossip.
• When Season 16 of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres March 18 on ABC, the competitors will include Jewish Olympic gymnastics champion Aly Raisman, although I think anyone my age will be rooting for another Olympic champ, Dorothy Hamill.
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