Report: Hagel Dumped on Israel, Netanyahu in 2010 Speech

Posted: Feb 20, 2013 10:14 AM

Let's face it: Alienating the Israeli Prime Minister is a feature -- not a bug -- in the eyes of this administration, isn't it?  As you ponder that, here's the Washington Free Beacon's latest scoop on yet another contemporaneous report on an eyebrow-raising speech from Obama's pick for Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel:

Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel said Israel is on its way to becoming an apartheid state during an April 9, 2010, appearance at Rutgers University, according to a contemporaneous account by an attendee. Hagel also accused Israel of violating U.N. resolutions, called for U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas to be included in any peace negotiations, and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “radical,” according to the source. Kenneth Wagner, who attended the 2010 speech while a Rutgers University law student, provided the Washington Free Beacon with an email he sent during the event to a contact at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The email is time-stamped April 9, 2010, at 11:37 AM:

“I am sitting in a lecture by Chuck Hagel at Rutgers,” Wagner wrote in the email. “He basically said that Israel has violated every UN resolution since 1967, that Israel has violated its agreements with the quartet, that it was risking becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t allow the Palestinians to form a state. He said that the settlements were getting close to the point where a contiguous Palestinian state would be impossible.” “He said that he [thought] that Netanyahu was a radical and that even [former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi] Livni, who was hard nosed thought he was too radical and so wouldn’t join in a coalition [government] with him. … He said that Hamas has to be brought in to any peace negotiation,” Wagner wrote.  

Carol offers her thoughts on these revelations here.  As far as we know, there's no video or audio of Hagel actually uttering these words, so his defenders will make the case that his comments are being mischaracterized.  They'll probably also point to the "basically" qualifier in the description above, which could suggest that the source was merely interpreting or paraphrasing Hagel's remarks.  Plus, they'll ask, are "apartheid" musings really beyond the pale?  If Hagel's votes on Iran, mutterings about the "Jewish lobby," and car-wreck confirmation hearings weren't enough to do him in, these newly discovered quotes (even if verified) probably won't do the trick either.  Allahpundit thinks the anti-Hagel forces are probably aware that there may not be a single silver bullet capable of bringing down the nomination at this point.  Rather, they're hoping the Senate might reach a breaking point via the sum of Hagel's parts, which have been dripping into the news cycle for weeks:

It’s probably a mistake to view these reports of questionable speeches individually rather than in the aggregate. The point here isn’t to find one single thing that Hagel’s said that’ll instantly disqualify him, it’s to give the Democrats a headache that pounds harder, day by day over the next week, so that when they come back to D.C. they’re ready to purge themselves of this whole business. Makes me wonder, in fact, if Hagel’s opponents aren’t discovering this stuff every few days but rather have a pile of it amassed and are now following a Breitbartian strategy of dribbling it out daily to steadily increase the pressure. All his opponents need, really, is a crack in the dam, just one Democrat to say “enough.”  

This, presumably, was the whole strategy behind the GOP's apparently temporary decision last week to block a vote on the nomination.  Buy some more time, air some more potentially damaging laundry, and let supportive Democrats squirm.  (Incidentally, while you're over at Hot Air, be sure to read AP's take on Israel's...interesting decision to award President Obama its presidential medal of distinction).  On Sunday's Meet the Press, John McCain ripped Hagel as unqualified to serve as SecDef, but allowed that it's probably about time to give him an up or down vote anyway. Columnist Bret Stephens dissents from this view, urging a fill-blown filibuster in the pages of yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

There's an issue of character that needs to be addressed. To wit, does a senator who denounces Israeli influence-peddling but abets Iranian influence-peddling have the judgment to serve as U.S. secretary of defense? There is also a question of the character of the Senate. Democrats are complaining that the effort to filibuster Mr. Hagel's nomination is unprecedented and obstructionist. That's rich coming from Democrats who effectively filibustered John Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador in 2005 by refusing to vote for cloture. Among those voting against cloture were then Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois, Hillary Clinton of New York, and Harry Reid of Nevada. Now some Republicans are saying that a president deserves an up-or-down vote on his cabinet picks. That sounds like a stand on principle, but it's political capitulation.

These rational objections notwithstanding, unless the dam breaks -- and soon -- it looks like this guy will be our next Secretary of Defense, thanks to Captain Smart Power himself.  Super.