Chuck Hagel has sought to distance the United States from Israel, blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism, pressure Israel to surrender territory and retreat to indefensible borders, and has consistently attempted to increase pressure on Israel and reduce it on Israel’s foes.
In June 1999, Hagel was the only U.S. Senator who refused to sign an American Jewish Committee ad in the New York Times asking Russian President Boris Yeltsin to combat anti-Semitism in Russia.
In October 2000, Hagel was one of only four Senators who refused to sign a letter expressing support for Israel during the Palestinian intifada.
In November 2001, Hagel was one of 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter requesting President Bush not meet with Yasser Arafat until Arafat’s Fatah terrorists ceased attacks on Israel.
In April 2002, Hagel largely absolved Palestinians of responsibility for their campaign of terrorism against Israel.
“We understand Israel’s right to defend itself. We are committed to that right. We have helped Israel defend that right. We will continue to do so. But it should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people–innocent Palestinian people and innocent Israelis who are paying a high price. Both Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a war not of their making.”
In the same speech, Hagel speculated that NATO troops should be sent to Israel:
“Will America be called upon, NATO forces be called upon to help guarantee this peace? Maybe.”
In May 2002, Hagel said he would have opposed a House resolution that blamed terrorist Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian terror groups for terrorism.
KARL: “You would have voted against Tom DeLay’s resolution in the House?”
HAGEL: “I would have very much voted against it because it did, in fact, single out the Palestinians and Arafat as the real problem here. And I think we have to be very careful here, as we are working toward a resolution and an ultimate political settlement. And it doesn’t help when we take public sides on this and castigate and assign all of the responsibility and all the blame to one side.”
In June 2002, on CNN, Hagel refused to call Yasser Arafat a terrorist and said the revelations about his direct role in orchestrating terrorist attacks against Israel were causing the Bush administration “to make Arafat the issue,” to which Hagel objected, and insisted that Arafat had a constructive role to play in the peace process:
“SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think what has happened here — and I don’t know if this is an unintended consequence or not, but the fact is, the administration has now made Yasser Arafat the issue. Even though they say he shouldn’t be the issue or is not the issue, they have made him the issue. The issue should be not Yasser Arafat. Whether you think he’s a terrorist or not, that’s rhetorical sword play. He is part of this process.”
In June 2002, after two years of Palestinian suicide bombings and terror attacks had murdered hundreds of Israelis, Hagel told an anti-Israel conference that the U.S. alliance with Israel should not come “at the expense” of Palestinians, and that the U.S. must impose an “end game” on Israel and the Palestinians. According to a report from the conference,
“When Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) took the microphone, he also took the entire audience by surprise: ‘Israel is our friend and ally, and we must continue our commitment,’ he said, ‘but not at the expense of the Palestinian people.’
“The cheers were deafening. Hagel went on: ‘What we need isn’t a cease-fire, leading to a sequential peace process, leading to negotiations on a Palestinian state, leading to negotiations on refugees, Jerusalem, etc. That time has passed. An end game must be brought to the front, now.’”
In July 2002, in a Washington Post op-ed written after several of the most deadly months of Palestinian suicide bombings, Hagel said 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” continued, and that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace” – after Israel had twice offered the Palestinians a state in negotiations in 2000 and 2001.
In January 2003, Hagel accused Israel of “keep[ing] Palestinians caged up like animals.”
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.
In April 2004, Hagel refused to sign onto a letter asking the UN not to support an International Court of Justice “advisory opinion” (i.e. automatic condemnation) on Israel’s security fence, which stopped the entry of suicide bombers into Israel and saved countless lives. The letter garnered 79 Senate signatures, but not Hagel’s.
In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging that President Bush highlight Iran’s nuclear program while at the G-8 summit.
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.
In June 2006, at a Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) forum, University Of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer praised Hagel for not being pro-Israel: “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.”
In July 2006, Hagel called on President Bush to demand an immediate cease-fire when Israel retaliated against Hezbollah after the terrorist group attacked Israel, killed and abducted IDF soldiers, and fired rockets at Israeli civilians. Hagel said: “This madness must stop,” and accused Israel of “the systematic destruction of an American friend — the country and people of Lebanon.”
In different remarks during the same month, Hagel accused Israel of carrying out a “sickening slaughter” in Lebanon. In the same remarks, Hagel said that the U.S. relationship with Israel “need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.”
In July 2006, Hagel called on the Bush Administration to take up the Beirut Declaration of 2002, also known as the “Saudi Peace Initiative,” saying it was “a starting point” that had been “squandered” by the United States. It calls on Israel to retreat from the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and much of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall, as a precondition for peace.
In August 2006, Hagel was only of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter asking the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
In January 2007, Hagel said that Palestinians have been “chained down for many, many years.” “But when people have no hope, when there’s despair, little else matters. And this is not about terrorists don’t like freedom. Tell that to the Palestinian people who have been chained down for many, many years.”
In March 2007, the National Jewish Democratic Council said Hagel has “a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.”
In March 2007, according to an attendee at his talk at Rutgers University, Hagel said “the State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister’s office.”
In September 2007, Hagel voted against designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization.
In 2008, in an interview with author Aaron David Miller, Hagel said: “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” He continued, describing his reaction to a meeting in New York with supporters of Israel, where he told the audience: “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.”
In March 2009, Hagel signed a public letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas.
In October 2009, Hagel was the keynote speaker at the Palestinian advocacy group J Street’s annual conference. He said “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central, not peripheral, to U.S. vital security interests in combating terrorism, preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, stability in the Middle East and U.S. and global energy security.” He reiterated support for the so-called “Saudi Peace Initiative” which would require, in Hagel’s words, “Israeli withdrawal from all land occupied since 1967 [this would include the Golan Heights, the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, and all of the West Bank], a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem [code for flooding Israel with the descendants of Arab refugees from 1948-49], and acceptance of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.” He also declared:
“I believe there is a real possibility of a shift in Syria’s strategic thinking and policies...Syria wants to talk – at the highest levels – and everything is on the table.”
In April 2010, according to an attendee at a talk at Rutgers University, Hagel said Israel was "risking becoming an apartheid state" and that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is "too radical."
In September 2010, former executive director of AIPAC Morris Amitay said of Hagel: “I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes.”