Former Secretary of State Colin Powell defended U.S. President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense on Sunday, calling him a strong supporter of the state of Israel.
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In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Powell said that efforts to describe Hagel as an anti-Semite are "disgraceful" and that basing the accusation on his reference to the "Jewish lobby" is unfounded, since even Haaretz uses the term from time to time.
Powell said Hagel is “a very, very strong supporter of the state of Israel,” adding, “that doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes.”
On the subject of Iran, Powell said that Hagel has never ruled out the option of military force against Iran. “I think what Chuck Hagel has said is that nothing is ever off the table. But he is one who believes in the prospects for negotiation,” he said.
Powell, who supported Obama in the last two elections, says he is still a Republican, but said the party has a problem of "intolerance" towards minorities in general and blacks in particular. "They’ve lost two elections. The American people have made it clear that they are not particularly interested in finding new conflicts to get into.”
Obama nominated Hagel as secretary of defense last week. He has faced tough criticism from Congressional Republicans who say the former Republican senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran.