In a strongly worded statement issued by the RJC, Mr. Brooks writes that “Chuck Hagel’s troubling record on critical foreign policy issues makes this appointment a matter for serious concern. There has been bipartisan criticism of his positions on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his record on Iran has been very worrisome as well.”
Mr. Brooks view of Mr. Hagel’s record over the years is Mr. Hagel’s record reflects “a fundamental misunderstanding of the region and of the nature of the threats to U.S. interests in the region.”
Brooks says that “Hagel does not seem to understand that the U.S. and Israel are fighting a war against terrorists whose agenda is an existential threat to our free and democratic system.”
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Mr. Hagel wrote in a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post that then-President George W. Bush erred in refusing to meet with Yasser 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.”
Mr. Hagel’s record also includes some indications that he sees those who support a strong and safe Israel as having dual loyalties. In an interview quoted in Aaron David Miller’s book on the peace process called The Much Too Promised Land, Mr. Hagel said: “The political reality is that… the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”
Mr. Hagel once described a meeting he had in New York with a group of supporters of Israel, one of whom suggested Mr. Hagel wasn’t supportive enough of Israel.
Mr. Hagel 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 took an oath of office to the constitution of the United States, not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel.”
In terms of Mr. Hagel’s record on Iran, in October 2008, he prevented action on a Senate bill – sponsored by then-Senator Barack Obama – proposing economic sanctions against Iran. Mr. 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 opposed this kind of U.S. pressure on Iran.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org