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January 18, 2013

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 18, 2013 Jewish groups softening resistance on ]00qagel nomination By Ron Kampeas potential candidacy, issued the tough criticism it leveled WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Now that Chuck Hagel is officially President Obama's nominee to be secretary of defense, Jewish groups con- cerned about Hagel's record on Israel and Iran are faced with a choice. Do they fight hard to derail his nomination, joining com- mon cause with Republican opponents? Or do they tem- per their fire for a Vietnam War hero who insists that opponents have distorted his views on Israel and has a good chance of securing one of the most sensitive posts in the U.S.-Israel relationship? So far, it appears to be the latter. Jewish opponents appear to be toning down the criticism that greeted the news last month that Hagel, a Repub- lican who served as a U.S. senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009, likely would be Obama's defense choice. The Anti-Defamation League, one of the most outspoken critics of Hagel's a statement reiterating some of its concerns after Obama made the announcement Monday--but deferred to the president. "Sen. Hagelwould not have been my first choice, but I respect the president's pre- rogative," Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, said in the statement. In his statement, Foxman alluded to past proposals by Hagel to engage with Iran and with terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah; the nominee's skepticism of sanctions and the efficacy of a military strike on Iran; and his criticismof Israel in how it deals with the Palestinians. Foxman called on Hagel to address positions that the ADL chief said seem"so out of sync with President Obama's clear commitment on issues like Iran sanctions, isolating Hamas and Hezbollah and the president's strong support for a deepening of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation." The National Jewish Demo- cratic Council drew back from against Hagel in 2007 when he was considering a run as a Republican presidential candidate. NJDC said Monday that it is now "confident" Hagel would follow Obama's lead on Israel. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who has asked to be appointed interim senator should Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.) become secretary of state, last Monday softened his opposition to Hagel for his comments on Jews and gays. The shift on Hagei in some Jewish corners may be enough to give the 11 Jewish senators room to support Hagel, or at least to not oppose him--a significant gain in a body in which senators tend to take their cues on special interests from col leagues who belong to the group in question. The dimming of the pros- pect of an all-out lobbying ef- fort by some pro-Israel groups against Hagel's candidacy appears to be the product of White House outreach to Jewish groups in recentweeks, pushback by Hagel's support- DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, and potential successor Chuck Hagel listening as President Obama announces at the White House that he is nominating Hagel for the defense post, Jan. 7. ers and Obama's own record on Israel. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was silent on the nomination--and not just as a matter of its tradi- tional reticence to comment on nominations. Capitol Hill and pro-Israel insiders told JTA that AIPAC has not taken a stand in this battle. Steve Rosen, a former foreign policy director for AIPAC who now consults for a number of pro-Israel groups, said it would not help Israel's interests to undercut a candi- date for this key security post. As Israeli election heats up, intense focus on the American immigrant vote "It's about making friends, not getting into fights with people," Rosen said. Rabbi Steve Gutow, who directs the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said his public policy umbrella group would llagel on page 19A Marc Israel SelIem/FLASH90/JTA Tzlpi Livni, leader of the Hatnua party, speaking at The Jerusalem Post diplomatic conference in Herzliya, Dec. 12, 2012. By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA) The de- bate moderator asked the candidates what their parties would do to prevent a third intifada, an increasingly common concern in the Is- raeli election campaign. In his answer, Jeremy Gimpel drew from his upbringing--in Atlanta, Ga. "I'mfromAmerica," Gimpel said in English. "We don't talk By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Jacob Lew helped Orthodox observance reach the highest precincts of governance. But canaman that Republicans say "can't get to yes" be confirmed as secretary of the Treasury? President Obama nomi- nated Lew, his chief of staff, to the post on Jan. 10, to replace Timothy Geithner. Lew is well known in Wash- ington circles, but in some ways he is the polar opposite of Joe Lieberman, the former Connecticut senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee whose exuberant and public Jewish observance helped pave the way for Lew. Lew has been in public view much less than Lieberman and has not aggressively promoted his observance, although Lew is happy to talk about how he balances it with public service in relatively confined Jewish settings. He credits his bosses--Bill Clinton in the 1990s,when Lew Courtesy Tel Aviv International Salon Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, speaking at the Tel Aviv International Salon in front of a crowd of English-speaking immigrants in Tel Aviv, Dec. 23, 2012. to terrorists. In America, we eliminate terrorists." Soon after Gimpel had finished, New Jersey native Alon Tai shot back. "There are graves in the Wild West that say, 'Here lies John Smith, who exercised all his rights; "Tal said, also in English. "Do we want to find a pragmatic solution or do we want to be self-righteous?" Tal is a candidate for the center-left Hatnua party, Marc Israel SelIem/FLASH90/JTA Avigdor Liberman, at the time Israel's foreign minister, speaking at The Jerusalem Post diplomatic conference in Herzliya, Dec. 12, 2012. while Gimpel is running with the hard-right Jewish Home faction. They are two of a handful of American-born candidates at the forefront of an intensive push to win over English-speaking voters Will Republicans let Lew get Treasury? time to take Obama's calls. Lew is fiercely loyal to his boss, and they enjoy a broth- erly relationship, White House insiders say, pointing to Lew's omnipresence in official White House photos. He is one of a small group seen praying with the president on the day of last month's massacre of school- children in Connecticut--a moment that Obama has described as the worst in his presidency. Tevi Troy, an observant Jew who was deputy health secre- tary under President George W. Bush and who debated Lew during the election, said ideo- logical differences should not undercut a nominee and that he hoped to see Lew confirmed. "He is ideological and very committed to entitlements without full recognition of the fiscal challenges we face," he said."I hope as Treasury secre- tary he will come to some sort ofagreementthatwill alleviate our dire fiscal situation." Otherwise, Troy said, he was a fan of Lew for raising the roof beams for observant Jews. "I'm a fan of people who balance religious observance and high-level government service," Troy said. "It's great that it shows that Jews at what- ever observance level can serve at high levels of governments." Lew's value is not just his example but also his advice, said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the director of American Friends of Lubavitch, who often acts as an adviser to devout Jews in Washington seeking to balance observance and public service. "Jack Lew does not only seek rabbinical advice, he sometimes helps dispense it," Shemtov said. Shemtov recalled having to consider a request from a congregant who was called in to government work urgently on a religious holiday. Lew happened to be in synagogue, and Shemtov was able to con- sult with someone familiar both with governance and halachah, or Jewish law. "He's able to give an inside view of the scale of urgency in headed the Office of Manage- mentand Budget, and Obama, under whom Lew has headed the OMB before becoming chief of staff for their un- derstanding. "As a father who is at home and has dinner with his girls, he values that Shabbat is my time being with my family," Lew told JTA in a pre-election interview, when he was stump- ing for the president. "I could not ask fo someone to be more respectful and supportive, and that's the reason it works." Such deference, coupled with a studiously low profile in Washington, has helped smooth his relationships. Until recently, Lew was a Wash- ington rarity--a person who enjoyed admiration on both sides of the aisle. That came to an abrupt end two years ago when Lew, in his OMB capacity, led the administration's negotiations with Congress to rein in the deficit. The talks failed, and the GOP made Lew a bogeyman, saying he was too ideological. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's book about the talks, "The Price of Poli- tics," quoted Republicans as describing Lew as "disrespect- ful" and overly ideological in protecting entitlements. Woodward quotes House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio) as pleading with the White House to pull back Lew, saying he could not "get to yes." That reputation already has drawn a pledge to block Lew's nomination even before Obama formally announced it. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said in a statement Jan. 9 that Lew "must never be secretary of the Treasury." Those close to Lew inside and outside the White House say he is a "mensch" who frustrated Republicans with an encyclopedic command of facts that tended to undercut their arguments. According to Woodward, Lew also was soured by what he saw as Republican disrespect for the president, particularly when Boehner reufused for a in advance of Israel's Jan. 22 elections. While English-language campaigns aren't new in Israel, candidates and observ- Election on page 19A a way that that can help rabbis and even communal leaders understand things more prac- tically," he said. Jewish audiences thrill to such insights. Clevelanders attending a pre-election de- bate between Troy and Lew enjoyed their back and forth on Israel and domestic policy, but especially lit up when the two recalled their gentle explanations of observance to non-Jewish colleagues. Lew drew laughs when he recalled having to explain to congres- sional leaders that there was no need to suspend sessions for Chanukah--it was not a holiday requiring an absence from work. "It was a policy debate, and it was important and it was serious," said Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, who moder- ated the debate. "The closing discussion about his role as a Sabbath-observant Jew in the highest levels of govern- ment was both insightful and inspiring."