The government of Israel kept its distance on Tuesday from the battle brewing in Washington over the choice by President Obama for defense secretary. The president has nominated Chuck Hagel, who has a record on Iran and Israel that has come under scrutiny.
Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli Prime Minister and Ehud Barak the country’s Defense Minister did not give any comment on Obama’s choice. Obama made his choice official on Monday after it had been rumored for a number of weeks.
Comments out of Israeli were guarded by other members of the government. Netanyahu is favored to win reelection and has had an on and off relationship with President Obama. Although both leaders insist the relationship between the two nations is very solid.
Israel, which is the benefactor of over $3 billion annually from the U.S. in defense grants, has challenged at times Obama’s administration by threatening a preemptive war against Iran for their disputed nuclear program, while the other world powers are pursuing negotiations with Tehran.
Obama has been critical of the Israeli government’s settlement of the West Bank occupied land, which Palestinians have blamed for the impasse of two years in their negotiations with Israel.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministry in Iran said it hoped the appointment of Hagel would change policy in the U.S. and make the White House more respectful of nations’ rights.
One newspaper in Israel, quoted a government official who was unnamed as saying Hagel’s selection was very bad news for Israel, as it will not be easy with him.