Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are Obama's nice words met with action? Sen. Hagel (a recent critic to Israel) named to intelligence board

(JTA).US President Obama has named retired Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) to co-chair the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.

Hagel, who will co-chair the board with former Sen. David Boren (D-Oklahoma) was considered a critic of Israel by many pro-Israel activists during his two terms in the Senate, which ended early this year.

He told an Arab-American group in 2007 that his support for Israel was not "automatic," and in an interview for Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller's book said that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people" on Capitol Hill.

He also was one of a handful of senators who frequently didn't sign AIPAC-backed letters related to Israel and the peace process during his time in the Senate and opposed additional sanctions on Iran.

In a statement released Wednesday, the White House said the board's role is to "provide the president with an independent source of advice on intelligence matters," including the "quality, quantity and adequacy of intelligence activities," the "effectiveness of organization structure, management and personnel" and the performance of all federal agencies involved in intelligence collection or policy.

The intelligence board has no "day-to-day management or operational responsibilities," according to the statement, and is not a full-time position but reserved for "distinguished private citizens."

The chairman of the board during president George W. Bush's first term was another figure often criticized by pro-Israel activists, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

The Republican Jewish Coalition criticized Hagel's appointment as "a matter for serious concern."

"A review of Hagel's record over the years on these issues reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the region and of the nature of the threats to US interests in the region," said RJC executive director Matt Brooks, in a statement.