Perhaps. But the president should go forward with the nomination. Here's why:
Let's analyze the opposition. The usual gang of vocal neocons and "Israel-firsters" like the Emergency Committee for Israel, can be ignored. These are the people who did their best to defeat Obama and to plunge the US into foreign wars, convincing themselves that there is no daylight between Israel's interests and those of America in order to absolve themselves of dual-loyalties. Do you really think Barack Obama gives a fig about folks like William Kristol and his ilk?
True, the group is doing its best to whip up senators against the nomination. But we are not talking about AIPAC getting Congress to pass one of its pro-Israel resolutions. We are talking about defeating a president's nomination for secretary of defense. Such a defeat is rare; it occurred only once in the last fifty years when George H. W. Bush's nominee John G. Tower was rejected because of allegations about his private conduct and possible conflict of interest. Some cabinet nominees withdrew their candidacy in recent years, but because of possible legal infractions (employing illegal immigrants, etc.)
Then we have the Democrat liberal hawks, and while they are not openly supporting Hagel, they aren't saying no either. Chuck Schumer, whose base is very pro-Israel (and some of it quite rightwing) says that he will have to study Hagel's record. Significantly, Jeffrey Goldberg gives Hagel a clean bill of goods on the Israel question. Unfortunately, Goldberg has to strut his pro-Israel creds by taking a false and libelous shot against Stephen Walt, but the bottom line is that he supports Hagel's tough stand on the settlements.
If the nomination goes through, then Hagel could be facing tough confirmation hearings. I don't think Obama would lose this one, but even if he did, the confirmation hearings would bring to the center some of the major concerns of the Obama administration -- the criticism of the settlements while at the same backing a democratic Israel, the disinclination to act unilaterally in the Mideast, the desire to eliminate waste at the Pentagon. Win or lose, this would be a powerful teaching moment for the rest of the country. And it could help revitalize the grand tradition of Republican realism that was sidelined when the neocons took over the party and got us into mess after mess.
Still, if past performance is any indication of future results, the administration may pop its own balloon. I am not just referring to the Susan Rice affair. I heard Jim Jones speak at the first J Street Convention a few years ago, as as a representative from a cautious administration. The next year there was no representative. True, the president doesn't have to get reelected now. But "no-drama-Obama" doesn't like this sort of fight.
Which would be a pity. Chuck Hagel may be Israel's last chance for survival as a Jewish democracy. That's why liberal hawks like Goldberg are partial to him. Given my positions, I should be supporting a secretary of state that assists Israel in going over the cliff (like Hillary).