Jewish Groups on Both Sides Question Chuck Hagel's Curious History (Updated: Christian Group Rejects Hagel)

The American Jewish Council, which is generally left of center, published a statement today noting that as a senator, Chuck Hagel failed to sign a Senate letter condemning anti-Semtism. He was the only senator who did not sign that letter.


The first AJC encounter with Sen. Hagel I recall was when we sought his support, in 1999, for a Senate letter to then Russian President Boris Yeltsin urging action against rising anti-Semitism. We were unsuccessful. On June 20, 1999, we published the letter as a full-page ad in The New York Times with 99 Senate signatories. Only Sen. Hagel’s name was absent.

Our concern then has only grown since, as we have witnessed his stance on a range of core U.S. national security priorities.

The letter is posted here. There are 100 senators, but only 99 signatures on the letter.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which is obviously right of center, issued a press release as President Obama nominated Hagel to become Defense Secretary. The press release, titled “Hagel Nomination Shows Obama’s True Intentions with Israel.” The release blasts Obama’s choice.

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 hope 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.’


Updated: Christians United For Israel objects to Hagel’s nomination as well. In a statement released today, CUFI says:

CUFI opposes the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary. While we admire his past service to our country, his record concerning Iran and Hezbollah indicates an unacceptable blindness to the greatest security threat of our day.

CUFI describes itself as the largest pro-Israel organization in the US and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world.



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