President Barack Obama listens in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, where he announced that he is nominating Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John Brennan, center, as the new CIA director; and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, right, as the new defense secretary.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
JERUSALEM (AP) — A prominent member of the U.S. Senate said Tuesday Israel should not worry about President Obama's choice for U.S. defense secretary.
Some in Israel view Chuck Hagel as unsympathetic to Israel because his positions on Iran and the Palestinians seem to be at odds with those of the Israeli government.
But U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida who is visiting Israel, said Tuesday that Hagel has a record of support for Israel. Nelson said he will back Hagel's nomination.
Nelson, who will serve on the armed services committee of the new Senate, said he met with senior Israeli intelligence officials Tuesday to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
He said he also discussed Hagel's nomination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said the prime minister did not voice objections to Hagel.
Nelson took issue with comments this week by his colleague Rand Paul. During a visit to Israel, the Republican senator from Kentucky called for an end to foreign aid, even to allies like Israel. Nelson said U.S. aid to Israel, about $3 billion a year, would continue.
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