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RJC Responds to Hagel Confirmation: Hagel Choice Sends Wrong Message to Our Allies and Adversaries

Washington, D.C. (February 26, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition released the following statement about today's Senate vote on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense:

We are disappointed that Chuck Hagel's nomination won confirmation from the Senate. Respecting the President's prerogative to name his Cabinet members does not outweigh the Senate's duty to examine nominees and withhold consent from someone who is not qualified for the office.

Chuck Hagel's statements on Israel and the "Jewish lobby" raised serious concerns about his fitness to serve. His views on Iran are also deeply troubling. Hagel's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee showed that he lacks an understanding of the issues facing our defense forces and national security leaders. And he does not have the experience in running a large and complex organization that would make him an effective secretary of defense.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Sadly, we continue to believe that the choice of Chuck Hagel for this post sends the wrong message to the American people, our allies, and our adversaries."
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Hagel Reportedly Said US State Department Under the Control of Israel

RJC: Hagel must respond - before the Senate votes


Washington, D.C. (February 14, 2013) -- The Washington Free Beacon reports that former Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, allegedly said in a 2007 speech at Rutgers University that, "the [U.S] State Department is an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's office."

In response, Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks said:

"This new information shows why Senate Republicans are right to insist that final action on this nomination not be rushed. We need to fully investigate this allegation, and that means Senator Hagel needs to be heard from directly. Did Chuck Hagel really tell this audience - or any audience - that 'the State Department is an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's office'? That is what a pro-Hagel blogger, who says he was 'taking notes as [Hagel] was speaking,' reported at the time. It should go without saying that claiming Israel controls our State Department is absurd and outrageous.

"Unfortunately, if true, this is part of a very troubling pattern with Chuck Hagel. Hagel told Aaron David Miller that, 'The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Congress].' In elaborating on that offensive remark, he cast doubt on other government officials' integrity in a way that fits all too well with this newly-reported remark about the State Department, saying, 'I'm not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator.' Hagel's weak and ambiguous responses when confronted about these egregious remarks at his nomination hearing were among the low points of an appearance Senator McCain called, 'the worst he had ever seen by a nominee at any level.'

"We continue to believe that America can do better than Chuck Hagel and that the Senate should reject this nomination, but at the very least, Senator Hagel needs to address this report before the Senate can responsibly vote whether to confirm him."

The Free Beacon report is here: http://freebeacon.com/report-hagel-said-state-department-controlled-by-israel/
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RJC Mourns Passing of Ed Koch

Brooks: "He was a patriot and we will miss him."


Washington, D.C. (February 1, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition notes with deep sadness the passing of former New York Mayor Ed Koch.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Mayor Koch was a passionate and principled leader and an outspoken defender of Israel and the Jewish community. He chose principle over politics and didn't engage in partisan bitterness. In a long and controversial public career, he remained true to his commitment to do what was right for his constituents, his community, and his beloved State of Israel.

Brooks added, "The RJC was honored to work with Mayor Koch over the years. He was a patriot and we will miss him."
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Brooks: Hagel Likes Ike - For the Wrong Reason

Thursday, January 31, 2013
By: RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks

It turns out that Chuck Hagel is a great admirer of President Dwight Eisenhower. Unfortunately, what Hagel most likes about Ike was arguably Eisenhower's least admirable act--his bullying of Israel and his demarche to Britain and France, all in the service of rescuing of Egypt's dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

"Eisenhower Republican" is not a label enjoying much currency nowadays, but Senator Hagel "means it" when he describes himself that way, according to Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius in a column of January 27. According to Ignatius, Hagel kept a bust of Ike in his Senate office "for more than a dozen years," a portrait of Eisenhower adorns the wall of his current office, and he purchased three dozen copies of the recent book, Eisenhower 1956, to give to, among others, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the man whose former post he hopes to occupy, ex-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Ignatius writes.

The book about Ike, written by David A. Nichols, describes how three of America's staunchest allies, Great Britain, France, and Israel, took military action against a pro-Soviet, terrorism-sponsoring dictator, Nasser--and how Eisenhower forced them to end their operation before they could finish off Moscow's client.

For the West, late 1956 was a grim time, just a few years after the Korean stand-off, and in the midst of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. For Israel, the period preceding the October 1956 Mideast war was an agonizing time, with attacks on southern Israeli border towns by Gaza-based terrorists (not so different from events in our own time), armed and financed by Egypt, claiming the lives of about 250 Israelis between 1949 and 1956, and leaving as many as 1,000 wounded.

One of many incidents that left Israel shaken involved young Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff of the Israeli Army. He visited one of the border kibbutzim, Nahal Oz, in April 1956, and was deeply impressed by the courage and idealism of the pioneers, in particular a young couple whom he met, Ro'i and Amira Rothberg. Two days later, Rothberg was ambushed by terrorists--one of whom doubled as an Egyptian police sergeant--who clubbed him to death and gouged out his eyes. At Rothberg's graveside, a somber Dayan declared, "The longing for peace deafened his ears and he failed to hear the voice of the murderer waiting in ambush."

In Nasser's eyes – as in the eyes of today's Hamas rulers in Gaza – the killers were patriots. "You have proven by our deeds that you are heroes upon whom our entire country can depend," the Egyptian leader declared in an address to a terrorist unit. "The spirit with which you enter the land of the enemy must spread."

Nasser's sponsorship of the Gaza terrorists was only one part of the problem. In May 1955, he signed a huge arms deal with the Soviet Union. Egypt would receive MiG 15 bombers, submarines, antiaircraft guns, artillery, several hundred tanks, and more. Nasser's move overwhelmed Israel's previous military edge over the Arab states, and, given the Egyptian government's oft-declared goal of annihilating the Jewish state, posed a grave threat to Israel.

The British and French, too, were becoming increasingly worried about Nasser, and for good reason. A heavily-armed Soviet surrogate in the heart of the Middle East was an obvious recipe for trouble. Nasser's belligerent speeches and sponsorship of terrorism confirmed fears in London and Paris that the Egyptians were on the warpath. The final straw came in July 1956, when Nasser tore up the Anglo-Egyptian treaty providing for a phased British withdrawal from the Suez Canal (to be completed in 1968) and seized the canal.

Throughout this period, Israel repeatedly appealed to the Eisenhower administration and the United Nations to intervene, to no avail. It became "obvious that [the U.S. and the other Western powers] did not intend to make any effort to uphold Israel's rights," the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, later wrote. Eban recalled "many stormy discussions" with Eisenhower administration officials, who insisted that the Egypt-Soviet arms deal was "more promise than fulfillment."

"Embattled, blockaded, and besieged," as Eban put it, Israel found itself faced with a choice not altogether different from what it faces today with regard to Iran: strike first and risk world condemnation, or wait and risk its very existence. In late October, 1956, the Israelis, the British, and the French undertook a three-pronged strike against Nasser. While the Israelis quickly defeated the terrorists in Gaza and captured the Sinai peninsula, the British and French retook the Suez Canal.

But Eisenhower was furious. Hoping to woo Egypt to become pro-American, and worried about Soviet reaction to the attack, the U.S. president successfully pressured the British and French to withdraw by December. The Israelis, however, were reluctant to leave and face a return to the perils they faced before the war. 'Eisenhower 1956' quotes Ike telling Secretary of State John Foster Dulles: "Foster, you tell 'em [the Israelis], goddamn it, that we're going to apply sanctions, we're going to the United Nations, we're going to do everything that there is so we can stop this thing."

Under this pressure, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion finally withdrew from Sinai and Gaza in March 1957, in exchange for a U.S. promise to secure passage for Israeli ships and the stationing of United Nations peacekeeping forces to prevent Nasser from remilitarizing the Sinai. A decade later, Nasser, still a Soviet client, summarily expelled the UN forces, whereupon the White House claimed it could not find Eisenhower's promise about protecting Israeli shipping. Israel learned a bitter lesson from that experience, a lesson it has not forgotten.

And there is a telling postscript to this story. According to businessman and diplomat Max Fisher, Eisenhower privately remarked to him, in 1965: "You know, Max, looking back at Suez, I regret what I did. I never should have pressured Israel to evacuate the Sinai." Likewise, Richard Nixon told Fisher's biographer, Peter Golden, that Eisenhower said he "regretted" pressuring Israel in 1956 and was convinced he had made "a mistake" in doing so.

Sadly, instead of learning from Eisenhower's admitted error, Senator Hagel seems to adore him for it. The senators at Hagel's confirmation hearing may want to consider the danger that if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, Hagel will be in a position to help repeat history, by influencing the current president to pressure Israel into one-sided concessions and extend a welcoming hand to another generation of Gaza terrorists.

Matthew Brooks is the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
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RJC Releases New Ad: Say "No" to Chuck Hagel

Quotes Jewish leaders' and elected officials' concerns about Hagel's record on Israel, Iran


RJC Urges Senate to Vote No on Hagel nomination


Washington, D.C. (January 24, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition today released a web ad quoting prominent Jewish leaders and elected officials who have expressed serious concerns about Chuck Hagel's nomination to be Secretary of Defense.

The ad, titled "Say 'No' to Chuck Hagel," quotes Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as well as Abe Foxman, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, and the Washington Post editorial board. All of them find Hagel's views and record to be deeply troubling.

The ad urges viewers to call their Senators and ask them to vote "no" on the Hagel nomination.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Chuck Hagel's record on Israel, on Iran, and on other vital defense issues is cause for real concern. President Obama's choice of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense signals a weakening commitment by the President toward Israel in his second term. We strongly oppose this nomination and we urge members of the Senate to do the same."

Click here or on the graphic below to see the ad:



 

Background: What They're Saying about Chuck Hagel:

Rep Eliot Engel: "It seems there is some kind of endemic hostility toward Israel, and that's troublesome for me and for a lot of other people... I think in the sensitive post of secretary of defense, those are warning bells, those are red lights." (C-SPAN, 12/21/12)

Sen. Joe Lieberman: "Chuck Hagel has consistently been against economic sanctions to try to change the behavior of the Islamist regime, the radical regime in Tehran, which is the only way to do it, short of war." (CNN, 12/23/12)

Sen. Lindsey Graham: "Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be the secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation's history." (CNN, 1/6/2013)

Abe Foxman: "Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community's friends of Israel. His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he's expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter." (Washington Post, 12/18/2012)

Rabbi Abraham Cooper: "Whatever the context [for Hagel's "Jewish lobby" comments], the shorthand in the Middle East, Europe and online is so far gone. That terminology is really now shorthand for the worst kind of anti-Semitic mindset." (Washington Post, 12/19/2012)

Washington Post editors: "Mr. Hagel's stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term - and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him." (Washington Post, 12/18/2012)
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RJC ACTION ALERT: Tell your Senators - Vote "NO" on Hagel

ACTION ALERT


TO: RJC Members
FROM: RJC Legislative Affairs Committee
SUBJ: Tell Your Senators: VOTE "NO" on HAGEL

President Obama has nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. The RJC strongly opposes this nomination because of Chuck Hagel's troubling record on Israel, Iran, and other issues.

* 2013 is the critical year in which we must confront Iran's growing nuclear threat. We must have all options on the table to give the U.S. and its allies the most leverage for preventing the rise of a nuclear Iran. Chuck Hagel has signaled his belief that military force should not be an option for dealing with Iran.

* Chuck Hagel was not a reliable friend of Israel while in the Senate or since. Hagel has spoken disparagingly about Israel's supporters in this country ("the Jewish lobby") and is himself strongly supported by groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now that are far out of the mainstream of the American Jewish community.

* The Secretary of Defense is the official responsible for implementing the close military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. We need a friend of Israel in that position to keep that vital strategic relationship strong.

* President Obama campaigned as a friend of Israel and as someone supportive of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, despite conflicts with Israeli leaders in the past. Chuck Hagel's nomination is another example of President Obama breaking his promises to the Jewish community.


TAKE ACTION
Call your U.S. Senators and tell them to vote "NO" on Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense.

Information about how to contact your U.S. Senators can be found HERE or by calling 202-224-3121.

Senators are more responsive to their own constituents, so we encourage you to alert friends and family members in other states and ask them to contact their Senators as well.

BACKGROUND
Some details on Hagel's record can be found here:
RJC: Appointment of Hagel Would Be A "Slap in the Face" for Pro-Israel Americans
RJC: Hagel Nomination Shows Obama's True Intentions with Israel
CBS News: Hagel Nomination Cheers Iran, Worries Israel
The Weekly Standard: Obama, Hagel, and Iran

The RJC is the first major Jewish organization to oppose the Hagel nomination and one of the very few willing to do battle on this important issue. Please support the RJC's efforts with your generous donation by clicking here.
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Hagel Nomination Shows Obama's True Intentions with Israel

Choice is a blow to U.S.-Israel relations and Obama's relationship with Jewish community


RJC Urges Senate to Vote No on Hagel


Washington, D.C. (January 7, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition today expressed its strong opposition to President Obama's decision to name former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Hagel's record regarding Israel and his positions on Iran raise serious concerns for Americans who care about Israel and about a strong and effective U.S. policy in the Middle East.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "This nomination is a blow to U.S.-Israel relations, to the President's relationship with the American Jewish community, and to U.S. security in the Middle East. It signals that the President, having been re-elected, will now distance himself from Israel. We believe that when Senator Hagel's weak record is laid on the table, Senators will rightly decline to support his nomination."

The RJC was the first major Jewish organization to go on record as strongly opposing a Hagel nomination. Many others, including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, JINSA, and the Zionist Organization of America, have also signaled their serious concerns about Hagel.

In addition, members of the Senate from both sides of the aisle have expressed their opposition, or withheld their expected support, for their former colleague's nomination.

Background: Excerpts from Chuck Hagel's record

* October 2000: Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
* November 2001: Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to continue his policy of not meeting with the Yasir Arafat until the Palestinian leader took steps to end the violence against Israel.
* June 2004: Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
* December 2005: Hagel was one of only 27 Senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.
* August 2006: Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
* August 2006: Anti-Israel group CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel, "Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel..."
* March 2009: Hagel was one of 10 former and current foreign policy officials who signed a letter urging Pres. Obama to open direct talks with Hamas leaders.
* On Iran: Hagel, writing in a May 2006 article for The Financial Times, explicitly ruled out the military option against Iran that Pres. Obama claims to have 'kept on the table.'
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RJC: Pew Poll Shows Large Ideological Gap in American Sympathies for Israel or the Palestinians

Conservative Republicans support Israel by 42 points more than liberal Democrats


Washington, D.C. (January 3, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today noted a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that shows the continuing large gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats.

The poll, taken in mid-December, asked, "In the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, which side do you sympathize with more, Israel or the Palestinians?"

The survey confirms the continued existence of a large "Israel gap" between Republicans and Democrats. According to Pew, "There continue to be
stark partisan differences in Middle East sympathies. Conservative Republicans maintain strong support for Israel with fully 75% saying they sympathize with Israel compared with just 2% who sympathize with the Palestinians. By contrast, liberal Democrats are much more divided: 33% sympathize more with Israel, 22% with the Palestinians."

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated, "This poll confirms the troubling shift among rank-and-file Democrats, for whom support of Israel is now a minority position. Other polls this past year, as well as the boos from the floor when a pro-Israel resolution was brought before the Democratic National Convention last summer, all point to lower support for Israel among Democrats. The traditional bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and the country is threatened by the leftward shift of the Democratic Party, a shift that increasingly makes it hard for some Democratic leaders to support Israel because of liberal pressure."

Sources:

Pew poll, December 2012 -- http://www.people-press.org/2012/12/14/public-says-u-s-does-not-have-responsibility-to-act-in-syria/

Gallup poll, March 2012 -- http://www.gallup.com/poll/153092/americans-continue-tilt-pro-israel.aspx
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RJC: Appointment of Hagel Would Be A "Slap in the Face" for Pro-Israel Americans

Hagel's Weak Record Cited by Both Parties


Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2012) --The Republican Jewish Coalition today announced its opposition to the potential appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as Secretary of Defense, citing a long list of actions Hagel has taken that raise alarms about his failure to support Israel.

  • August 2006: Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

  • October 2000: Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

  • November 2001: Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to continue his policy of not meeting with the Yasir Arafat until the Palestinian leader took steps to end the violence against Israel.

  • December 2005: Hagel was one of only 27 Senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

  • June 2004: Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit.

  • August 2006: Anti-Israel group CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel, "Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel..."

  • March 2009: Hagel was one of 10 former and current foreign policy officials who signed a letter urging Pres. Obama to open direct talks with Hamas leaders.

  • On Iran: Hagel, writing in a May 2006 article for The Financial Times, explicitly ruled out the military option against Iran that Pres. Obama claims to have 'kept on the table.'


RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Chuck Hagel's statements and actions regarding Israel have raised serious concerns for many Americans who care about Israel. The Jewish community and every American who supports a strong U.S.-Israel relationship have cause for alarm if the President taps Hagel for such an important post.  The appointment of Chuck Hagel would be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel."
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Hagel nomination would be a gut check for pro-Obama Israel supporters

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
By: Noah Silverman, RJC Congressional Affairs Director


A report from Reuters has now confirmed what Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin had discovered last month - that President Obama is considering former Senator Chuck Hagel for a top national security post, likely Secretary of Defense.

Rogin reported that Hagel was "being vetted."  Presumably, that vetting process includes consultations with a range of interested parties.  And presumably, that includes pro-Israel advocates.  Let's hope that anyone on the receiving end of such a query responds forthrightly that for the President to elevate Hagel to a position of trust would be construed as a gesture of indifference - if not outright contempt - toward Jewish Americans and every American who supports a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.

In the past, Jewish leaders have made their concerns about Hagel clear.  The last time President Obama had to pick a new Defense Secretary, in 2010, a report by the Washington Jewish Week included red-flag quotes from numerous community sources - including pro-Obama Democrats:

    • D.C. Jewish community professional who is in contact with the White House: "I have to think that the mainstream Jewish communal organizations would have meaningful problems with it"

 

    • Washington PAC Director and former AIPAC Executive Director Morris Amitay: "Hagel would be in a position to reinforce the worst aspects of the administration's current Middle East policies, which would be very dangerous for Israel"

 

    • A longtime Jewish political operative: "Given his long, questionable record and the clear problems his nomination would cause -- not to mention the volumes of criticism by other Democrats for his rank hostility to Israel -- it is hard to believe that the White House would want to make such a risky choice at precisely the time we are asking the Israeli to 'trust us' on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict."

 

    • Democratic operative who campaigned for Obama in the Jewish community: "If he was in fact appointed, I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration."



In fact, some of the most forceful criticism of Hagel's record on issues of concern to American Jews and other pro-Israel Americans has come from the National Jewish Democratic Council, "the national voice of Jewish Democrats."

When Hagel considered running for President in 2007, NJDC signaled that they planned to call him to account for a record that included numerous departures from the pro-Israel mainstream.  To wit:

    • In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

 

    • In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

 

    • In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

 

    • In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

 

    • In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit.

 

    • And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel: “Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]



And Hagel's history of pronouncements and other actions is, if anything, even more alarming.  Hagel wrote in a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post that the President Bush erred in refusing to meet with Yassir Arafat and that Arafat and his support for terrorism against Israel were not the real issue. He wrote: "...we cannot hold the Middle East peace process hostage by making Yasser Arafat the issue.... Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue."

With respect to Iran, Hagel has argued that, "Whether we like it or not, there will be no peace or stability in the Middle East without Iran's participation."  And he has explicitly ruled out the military option Obama has supposedly 'kept on the table.'

In a devastating 2010 post on Commentary's blog, Jennifer Rubin called attention to more problematic items in Hagel's record.

    • "In 2006, when Hezbollah’s attacks provoked Israeli retaliation and the war in Lebanon, Hagel screeched for the president to demand an immediate cease-fire, arguing it was essential in order to 'enhance America’s image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East.' Our credibility, in his eyes, depends on the United States’s preventing Israel from defending itself."

 

    • In 2009, "Hagel signed a letter urging Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas..."

 

    • "In 2007 Hagel wanted to open direct, unconditional talks with Iran. (“It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West.”) In 2007 he voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization."

 



Rubin went on to quote an account of an incident that suggested Hagel's stances reflected not just substantive disagreements - but also  more visceral sentiment:

In an interview quoted in Aaron David Miller’s book on the peace process called The Much Too Promised Land, Hagel said: “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."

Hagel then described a meeting he had in New York with a group of supporters of Israel, one of whom suggested Hagel wasn’t supportive enough of Israel. Hagel said he responded: “Let me clear something up here if there’s any doubt in your mind. I’m a United States Senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is, I take an oath of office to the constitution of the United States. Not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel."


This led Rubin to predict that "Hagel is a nominee who would thrill the Walt-Mearsheimer Lobby."  In apparent confirmation of this prediction, anti-Israel commentator M.J. Rosenberg opined on Twitter that it "would be great" if Obama picked Hagel for a high-powered administration post.

Similarly, a Hagel admirer interviewed by Rogin emphasized his expectation that a Cabinet appointment would afford Hagel a more prominent perch from which to continue "feeding tough-love messages to Obama... on the Middle East" something the source said Hagel had been doing from the outside "for some time."  And naturally, the notoriously Israel-averse former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski endorses Hagel as someone who could help Obama "follow through" notwithstanding "the influence of lobbies" and other annoying impediments.

The Reuters report suggests that picking Hagel would somehow demonstrate bipartisan goodwill on Obama's part, but undercuts this by admitting that since his retirement from the Senate, "Hagel has been a big critic of his own party." Indeed, Hagel's only endorsements have been endorsements of Democrats, notably 2010 Senate candidate Joe Sestak and 2012 Senate candidate Bob Kerrey, who was running in the state Hagel once represented in the Senate. (In both instances, voters declined to take Hagel's suggestion.)

Interestingly, the Nebraska Republican party offered evidence that Hagel's Republicanism is of the in-name-only variety - a photograph of Hagel's lawn, with signs touting Obama and local (Virginia) Democrats on prominent display. Asked about the signs at the Kerrey endorsement press conference in Nebraska, Hagel gamely responded that his wife put up the signs, but he didn't protest too much.  Indeed, he took the occasion to slam the GOP yet again.

How much will pro-Israel groups protest if Obama taps Hagel despite all the problems in his record?  It will be a real gut check moment.

In 2010, NJDC's then-Executive Director Ira Forman defended the Obama administration's decision to appoint Hagel to an advisory panel, but seemed to draw a red line in an interview with the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb:

He suggested that NJDC would publicly oppose Hagel's nomination for a position with more authority. "If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we'd have real concerns," Forman said. And Forman indicated that his group would oppose Hagel's appointment to any position that had influence over U.S.-Israel relations.


Based on Hagel's record, it's clear those 'real concerns' are greatly warranted.  (How seriously the administration will take them is a separate question; Rogin reports that Hagel has already been offered important posts, "including secretary of homeland security, director of national intelligence, and ambassador to China.")

If Obama does end up nominating Hagel for one of these key positions, we'll see if NJDC and other administration-friendly folks in the pro-Israel camp have the integrity to reiterate their concerns.

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