Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told a group of Jewish leaders in New York on Thursday that Chuck Hagel — President Obama’s choice as the next Defense Secretary — is a “decent and fair interlocutor who believes in the natural partnership between Israel and the United States.” Ayalon also told the group that “Hagel is a true American patriot, and the support that America gives Israel is in America’s interest. So I am optimistic.” Neocons have been trying to smear Hagel since reports surfaced that he was likely to be nominated, calling him anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
The Christian Science Monitor also reported this week that Yaakov Peri, former director of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, said he shared some of Hagel’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I rely on the president of the United States that Chuck Hagel is a responsible and capable guy to do his job and I share the view that the US and Israeli bond and relationship and cooperation will remain, and hopefully strengthen,” Peri said.
In other news:
Stars and Stripes reports: Much of the $28 million the United States spends daily to build up Afghanistan is thrown at projects without planning, and little attention is paid to whether the work ever gets done right, the U.S. official in charge of oversight of Afghan reconstruction said Thursday.
The CIA began 2012 by ramping up drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region. The Washington Post reports that “[c]urrent and former U.S. intelligence officials attributed the increased tempo to a sense of urgency surrounding expectations that President Obama will soon order a drawdown that could leave Afghanistan with fewer than 6,000 U.S. troops after 2014.”
The New York Times reports: Despite onerous sanctions that have basically shut Iran out of the global financial system, the country is still finding some ways to bypass them, the Treasury Department said Thursday, describing what it called a small but “emerging threat” to the effectiveness of the sanctions effort.