By Jonathan Easley - 01/22/13 01:20 PM EST
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), President Obama’s nominee for secretary of Defense, met with leaders from some of the country’s largest Jewish groups at the White House on Friday.
“Senator Hagel met with the leadership of several major American Jewish organizations at the White House as a part of his ongoing outreach," an official working on Hagel's confirmation told The Hill in an email. "He discussed his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, including his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and to sustaining the Obama Administration’s unprecedented security cooperation with Israel. He appreciated the opportunity to have a constructive, informed and wide-ranging discussion."
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Monday called the meeting, which also included Vice President Biden, “an important opportunity for a serious and thorough discussion of key issues of importance to all of us.”
Hagel faces strong opposition from GOP lawmakers and pro-Israel groups who seized on a comment he made in 2006 claiming a “Jewish lobby” intimidates members of Congress. Those groups have accused Hagel of being weak on Iran and Hamas.
Hagel recently expressed regret for the remark, calling it a “poor choice of words,” and has vowed to “expand the depth and breadth of U.S.-Israel cooperation.”
Since addressing the comment, Hagel has picked up the support of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), bolstering his chances of winning confirmation.