While declining to discuss Hagel’s record on Israel, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last Thursday that “the president thinks very highly of Senator Hagel.”
Hagel’s office has remain tight-lipped and had no immediate comment.
J Street, a liberal American Jewish group, said it was “appalled by efforts surfacing in recent days to question his commitment to the state of Israel and to Middle East peace.”
But The Washington Post weighed in late on Tuesday with an editorial declaring that Hagel was “not the right choice.”
It chided him for advocating deep defense cuts and said he was out-of-step on Iran for voicing skepticism that force might eventually be needed to stop its nuclear program.
On Tuesday even some of Hagel’s former Republican colleagues expressed misgivings about him.
Asked about Hagel’s 2006 statement that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would “have to answer for that comment” if he is nominated.
“And he’ll have to answer about why he thought it was a good idea to directly negotiate with Hamas and why he objected to the European Union declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “He’s been a friend, he has a stellar military record, but these comments disturb a lot of people.”