© Jim Young/Reuters
Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel, who were Senate colleagues at the time, at the Amman Citadel in Jordan in July 2008.
With Chuck Hagel
, a former senator from Nebraska, emerging as a front-runner to be President Obama
's next secretary of defense, critics are taking aim at his record on Israel as well as remarks he made about pro-Israel lobbying groups in Washington.
Mr. Hagel, a Republican, has been skeptical about the efficacy of American sanctions against Iran, has opposed efforts to isolate militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and has spoken candidly about the influence of what he once referred to as the "Jewish lobby" on Capitol Hill.
Those comments, in particular, have drawn the ire of Jewish leaders, who say they raise questions about Mr. Hagel's commitment to Israel and have propagated unsavory stereotypes about Israel's influence over American foreign policy.
"He has a checkered past on Israel," said Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League
, a Jewish advocacy organization. "At the least, it's disturbing; at worst, it's troubling."
Several of the groups are reaching out to members of Congress, circulating a list of Mr. Hagel's positions on issues related to Israel, Iran and the Palestinians. The goal, officials on Capitol Hill said, appears to be to pressure the White House to think twice about naming him.