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Hagel nomination: Israelis ask 'what's the big deal?'

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“Zionism was about creating a shelter, the most secure place on earth for Jews,” said Bennett, speaking at a foreign policy debate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem today. “By having a nuclear Iran, Israel by one fell swoop would turn into the most dangerous place for Jews.”

Obama has promised to prevent a nuclear Iran, but his appointment of Hagel signals to some that Obama may be more lenient than they feel comfortable with.

“[Hagel] is dangerous,” says Eliyahu Ben Haim, one of the few Jerusalemites out and about on a very stormy day. “He’s anti-Semite. He’s against attacking Iran, he’s against sanctions, and he wants us to talk to Hamas and Hezbollah.”

But in the same shopping area, Fred Sternberg says Hagel essentially shares Obama’s views on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thus his appointment would not trigger any major policy change. The bigger conflict is between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Obama, he says.

“The problem is that we don’t have a government that is very friendly toward Obama,” says Dr. Sternberg, who has lived here for 40 years. “I do not agree with the policy of the Israeli government. So I am not very far from Obama.”

Others on the political left here even go so far as to support Hagel’s nomination.

“I listened yesterday to some remarks that Mr. Hagel said – one was his critique about the behavior of Israel in the Palestinian issue. I share his views,” said Yaakov Peri, former director of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet. He notes that Hagel supports a Palestinian state and thinks Israel “should go for it, initiate it.

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