The real Hagel record

Hagel’s theses, weak as they are, must have provoked the antitheses — antitheses drawn more reliably from Hagel’s record, I believe, than the theses are. I understand that the fact sheet below has been circulating on Capitol Hill over the last 90 minutes (i.e., late Wednesday evening). Here it is, with embedded links to sources in place of the Word document’s footnotes:


Former U.S. Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel, who President Obama appointed as co-Chair of his Intelligence Advisory Board in October 2009, has an extremely troubling record on Middle East issues that casts doubt on his preparedness to support policies which advance U.S. national security interests in that region, such as isolating Iran and holding terrorist groups accountable for their actions.

For example, in 2009, Hagel signed onto a letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas, which has perpetrated dozens of suicide bombings that have killed or injured hundreds of civilians in Israel, including even some Americans.

As U.S. Senator, Hagel repeatedly refused to join large majorities in expressing support for Israel or to advance sanctions against Iran for pursuing of nuclear weapons. Hagel even advocated direct, unconditional talks with Iran.

The National Jewish Democratic Council has described Hagel’s record on Israel as “questionable” and said he has “a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.”

When questioned about his pro-Israel record during a meeting in New York with supporters of Israel, Hagel is reported to have said, “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.”

Coddling Terrorists

1. In November 2001, Hagel was one of 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter requesting President Bush not meet with Yassir Arafat until forces linked to Arafat’s Fatah party ceased attacks on Israel.

2. In December 2005, Hagel was one of 27 Senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bush requesting the U.S. pressure the Palestinians to ban terrorist groups from participating in legislative elections.

3. In July 2006, Hagel called on President Bush to push for an immediate cease-fire as Israel was pounding Hezbollah targets in Lebanon after the group fired rockets into Israel.

4. In August 2006, Hagel was only of 12 senators who refused to sign onto a letter asking the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

5. In 2007, Hagel voted against designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

Hostility Toward Israel and Jews

1. In October 2000, Hagel was one of only four Senators who refused to sign a letter expressing support for Israel during the second Palestinian intifada.

2. In November 2003, Hagel failed to vote on the Syria Accountability Act authorizing sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and occupation of Lebanon. The Act was passed by a vote of 89 to 4.

3. In July 2006, Hagel called on the Bush Administration to take up the Beirut Declaration of 2002, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, saying it was “a starting point” that had been “squandered” by the United States.

4. “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” (Hagel interviewed in Aaron David Miller’s 2008 book The Too Much Promised Land)

5. “I believe that we are now at a point where we must go directly to the core and defining… and most difficult issues… the final status issues.” (Hagel speech at JStreet’s annual conference, October 2009)

Veteran Washington lobbyist Morrie Amitay, who was Executive Director of AIPAC and, as head of Washington PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, for nearly 30 years has carefully assessed pro-Israel voting records on Capitol Hill, says of Hagel: “I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes.”

Accommodation Toward Iran

Hagel consistently has advocated a more conciliatory line toward Iran, refusing to support sanctions and promoting direct talks.

1. On July 24, 2001, Hagel was one of only two U.S. senators who voted against renewing the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.

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

3. In a 2007 letter to President Bush, Hagel urged “direct, unconditional” talks with Iran to create a “historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations.”

4. In 2008, Hagel voted in the Senate Banking Committee against legislation imposing sanctions on countries conducting certain business with Iran.

5. In March 2012, Hagel suggested Iran had “a couple of face-saving ways” out of a new round of economic sanctions over its nuclear program. “You cannot push the Iranians into a corner where they can’t get out,” he said.

Associations With Extreme Groups

1. Hagel was the keynote speaker at JStreet’s annual conference in October 2009. Among its extremist positions, J Street has called upon the U.S. Congress to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

2. Hagel was praised by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, excommunicated by the FBI in 2009 due to links to terrorism finance: “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….”

Other Statements of Concern

1. “It is my opinion that [the George W. Bush Administration] is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen personally or ever read about.” (November 2007)

2. “Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.” (after meeting with Syrian dictator Hazef al-Asad in Damascus in December 1998)

3. In July 2002, Hagel staked a wrong-headed position in support of Yassir Arafat, who was later isolated by the U.S. Government for supporting violence against Israel during the second Palestinian intifada. In an opinion-editorial in the Washington Post, Hagel wrote that the U.S. was erroneously “making Yassir Arafat the issue,” that Palestinians could not be expected to make democratic reforms as long as “Israeli military occupation and settlement activity” continue, and that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace.”

4. In calling upon President Bush to push for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, Hagel said: “This madness must stop…. How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend — the country and people of Lebanon — is going 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 relationship with Israel is special and historic. But it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.” Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, he said, was “tearing Lebanon apart.”

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