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Israel group slams Chuck Hagel over Israel lobby comments

Hagel has often broken ranks with his former Republican colleagues in the Senate on issues such as the troop surge in Iraq and his comments on the "Jewish lobby" in Washington.

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Pentagon chief nominee, Chuck Hagel, criticized over past comments he made decrying the power of the Israel lobby in Washington. (ChuckHagel.com/Screengrab)

Pro-Israel groups and politicians in Washington have begun criticizing past comments by Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel.

Hagel has often broken ranks with his former Republican colleagues in the Senate on issues such as the troop surge in Iraq and his comments on the "Jewish lobby" in Washington.

The former Republican senator was nominated by President Barack Obama for the top job at the Pentagon, GlobalPost reported earlier on Monday.

The Daily Beast reported that in a 2006 interview with Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator at the State Department, Hagel told him, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”

“Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve,” Obama said Monday, during a speech in which he also nominated White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hagel, 66, a Vietnam war veteran was criticized by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which will hold a confirmation hearing on Hagel's nomination.

“This is an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” Graham, told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

“Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy.”

Israeli Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin told GlobalPost's Senior Correspondent in Israel Noga Tarnopolsky, "Because of Chuck Hagel's statements in the past, and because of his position vis–à–vis Israel, we are concerned" by his appointment.

Rivlin emphasized that the strategic cooperation between Israel and the US is strong and "a single person does not establish policy."

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a pressure group known for heavily criticizing politicians who are not seen as friendly to the Mediterranean nation, bought www.chuckhagel.com to slight the nominee.

The website features a video accusing Hagel of being soft on Iraq and Iran and declares that he is "not the responsible option."

The Emergency Committee is headed by the Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.

Hagel was quick to respond in an interview printed in the Lincoln Star Journal.

“The distortions about my record have been astonishing,” Hagel said.

He went on to say that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one vote that matters that hurt Israel. I didn’t sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn’t solve a problem.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has not commented on the nomination and has refused to make a statement about Hagel.

AIPAC, which is seen as the largest pro-Israel lobby in Washington, said that it refuses to comment on presidential nominations, reported the Daily Beast.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130107/israel-group-slams-chuck-hagel-over-israel-lobby