Former Sen. Chuck Hagel's comments that appear critical of Israel and lenient toward Iran are causing a firestorm as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider his nomination to be defense secretary. But one general says Israelis themselves are apparently unconcerned.
"Most Israelis do not know the man and do not even know his name," retired Israeli Gen. Elihu Ben-Onn told WND. "He's not very famous. He's not very well known in Israeli public opinion. We hear from sources in America in Washington that in the past Sen. Hagel said something that the leaders of Israel don't like. I must tell you, it is in the headlines but it's not such a major concern in Israel."
Gen. Ben-Onn is also bullish on the overall U.S.-Israeli relationship, despite some very public disputes between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We now believe those personal (differences) maybe disappeared, and the United States and Israel together will go to the future with hands together," said Ben-Onn.
The general also addressed the upcoming special elections in Israel slated for Jan. 22. Ben-Onn said the latest polls suggest Netanyahu's Likud Party will win the election, but how a new government will be formed is still undetermined.
"The question is who will be the (coalition) partners," he said. "Will the same structure and the same parties be part of the future – the ultra-orthodox parties or maybe central parties or left parties? This is the main issue, what will be the outcome of the elections and who will help Netanyahu to build the coalition?"
Ben-Onn also commented on the fierce civil war going on among Israel's neighbors in Syria. The general said Israelis aren't really taking sides, but he seemed to prefer the devil he knows in President Bashar al-Assad to what may emerge among the rebels.
"He was a very good leader in the sense that he didn't start any firing along the border in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria for the last 39 years," Ben-Onn said. "He is keeping the same policy, not peace but rather a quiet border, which is very nice and maybe in future we'll have peace.”
"Who will replace him? Will it be al-Qaida? Will it be another of the radical Islamist groups which could start, God forbid, an attack on the northern border?" Ben-Onn asked.
However, the general said he and other Israelis condemn any killings of Syrian civilians by the Assad regime.