One reason the president's decision to nominate Chuck Hagel as defense secretary is the right choice: We'll finally have "a serious debate on what constitutes real friendship toward Israel," writes Roger Cohen in the New York Times. Jewish groups have come out against Hagel, but their reasoning is pretty thin: Hagel isn't in favor of war with Iran, and he once referred to Israel advocates as "the Jewish lobby." In the eyes of many Jewish leaders in the US, "the only legitimate support of Israel is unquestioning support of Israel." But many American Jews no longer hold that view—as evidenced by the overwhelming number of voters who picked Obama, despite the GOP's election year claim that he had "thrown Israel 'under the bus.'"
The truth, Cohen writes, is that you can be a friend of Israel while still asking difficult questions. Such friends may not be as loud as the "self-styled 'true friends' of Israel," but they are "unwaveringly committed to Israel’s security within its 1967 borders" and believe a two-state solution can be found if both Israel and Palestine are willing to compromise. Meanwhile, the "true friends" pay little more than "lip service" to such a solution, and dismiss Palestine entirely, even though reforms have, in fact, prepared it for statehood. "Hagel, like Obama, is a quiet strong friend of Israel," Cohen writes. "The movement against him is a relic of a binary with-Israel or against-Israel vision that does not have the true interests of Israel or the United States at heart." Click for Cohen's full column.