Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hagel's record makes intelligence panel appointment troubling

Washington, D.C. (October 28, 2009) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today responded to reports (1) that former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (NE) will be named co-chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said: 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.

A review of Hagel's record over the years on these issues reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the region and of the nature of the threats to U.S. interests in the region.

For example, 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. 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. (2)

When Hagel was reported to be considering a bid for President in 2008, the National Jewish Democratic Council noted that Hagel "has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel." (3)

Hagel's record also includes some disturbing 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, 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." (4)

Hagel's record on Iran shows that he has a similar blind spot regarding the threat from that country. In October 2008, he prevented action on a Senate bill - sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama - proposing economic sanctions against 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," but he has opposed the kind of U.S. pressure on Iran that might prevent a nuclear Iran from being the greatest threat to regional peace and stability. (5)

Chuck Hagel has a distorted view of Israel, of Iran, and of the threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East. Placing him in a sensitive role in the intelligence community, where he will advise the President on the effectiveness of intelligence community assessments of global issues, is very troubling.




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This statement appears on the RJC web site at:

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