"Because of his statements in the past, and his stance toward Israel, we are worried,” Israeli parliament Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party, told The Associated Press. Rivlin added, however, that “one person doesn't determine policy.”
While Netanyahu has yet to respond to Hagel’s nomination, Civil Defense Minister Avi Dichter indicated that Israel is not necessarily opposed to Obama’s pick for Secretary of State. "There have already been nominations in the past which looked very troubling to us, and ultimately reality turned out totally differently, both for better and for worse," Dichter told Israel Radio in an interview.
"Therefore I think we should be careful. We do not nominate people in agencies in other countries in general, and especially in the United States. So, as it is customary to say to those being nominated there: welcome."
The Times of Israel on Sunday quoted a “top Israeli source” as saying that Netanyahu's government isn't necessarily opposed to Hagel.
“The only question we have is about his policy on the Iranian question,” the newspaper quoted the official as saying. “Some of those views will be cleared up in the [Senate confirmation] hearings. And we always have to keep in mind that the president makes the decision [about a possible Iran strike],” not the secretary of Defense
Meanwhile, a diplomatic source in Israel, who chose to remain anonymous, told Israel Hayom Newspaper that Hagel's appointment was "very bad news for Israel; it's clear that it won't be easy. It looks as if Barack Obama wants to be the good cop in his second term."
An unnamed commentator of Israel’s Channel 10 TV news told AFP that the one person who might struggle with Hagel as defense secretary was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had bad personal relations with him. Hagel "is not an enemy of Israel but an enemy of Netanyahu," he said.
Chuck Hagel's appointment is the “first course in the bitter meal that Obama intends to feed ... Netanyahu,” Yedioth Ahronoth wrote Tuesday.
Carl Bernstein, a Jew himself, on ‘Morning Joe’ called out Hagel critics and defended Hagel’s stance on Israel, saying Netanyahu is not Israel. “The American Jewish Community and the US Congress has got to stop confusing the 'Likud party' with 'Israel’. The Likud Party and Netanyahu are not Israel. It is time to stop kowtowing to Netanyahu and the Likud Party,” Bernstein said during a panel discussion over Hagel’s past comments.
While Eytan Gilboa, a specialist on U.S.-Israel relations at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, said he thinks that Hagel "will be a total disaster for Israel,” Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, once under Netanyahu, played down the impact of Hagel's nomination on Obama's strategies.
"In the United States, policy is made by the president, not by the members of the cabinet," he told Reuters, noting that Ronald Reagan, a former president considered warm to Israel, had a less sympathetic defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger.