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Former US Senator Chuck Hagel

Former US Senator Chuck Hagel

Congressman Eliot Engel has criticized the possible nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Defense Secretary, saying he has an “endemic hostility toward Israel.” Engel, the new leader of the House Democrats on foreign policy, was among several other American officials who voiced concerns over the prospect of Hagel, an outspoken critic of Israel, joining the US government. Engel said in an interview on Friday that the former Senator’s remarks on Israel and Iran made him a poor choice as the Pentagon chief. He added that particularly Hagel’s comments over the “Jewish lobby” in Washington had irked him. "I think that remark is troublesome, it's problematic. It shows at the very best a lack of sensitivity, at the very worst perhaps a prejudice. And I'm concerned about it, I'm concerned about the nomination," Engel said. "If I were doing the appointing, I would not appoint Chuck Hagel," he added. The Congressman also said that there were other representatives from his constituents who were also against Hagel’s potential nomination, adding Hagel’s moves against Israel showed a pattern of “hostility.” "It seems there is some kind of an endemic hostility towards Israel and that's troublesome to me and troublesome to a lot of people," he also said. "In the sensitive post of secretary of defense, those are warning bells. Those are red lights," he added. Engel, Who represents the Bronx, Rockland, and Westchester, stressed that President Barack Obama, would backtrack from Hagel to avoid controversy, as he knows that “the Hagel nomination potentially is a problem." Engel later suggested that former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy would be a good potential for the position. Some American Jewish leaders criticized the possible nomination of Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, when he opposed Israel’s interest, voted against sanctions on Iran, and even made blunt comments about the influence of the "Jewish lobby" in Washington. The 66-year-old was the first Republican senator to publicly criticize the war in Iraq, calling it the worst foreign policy blunder since the Vietnam War, and has consistently opposed any plan to launch a military strike against Iran. SAB/MA