Hagel on Israel—in letters

Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.

Click photo to download. Caption: Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel. Credit: U.S. Senate.

On the day when President Barack Obama nominated former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said that despite expressing concerns about Hagel in the past, it believes Hagel will “follow the President’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel—on strategic cooperation, missile defense programs, and leading the world against Iran’s nuclear program.”

When it comes to putting pen to paper, where has Hagel previously stood on foreign policy matters pertaining to Israel and the Middle East? In his 2008 book, The Much Too Promised Land, Miller recounted a conversation with Hagel as follows: “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, Hagel continued, and ‘then you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters’—because, he added, they were ‘stupid.’”

Hagel, who served in the Senate from January 1997 to January 2009, was telling Miller the truth about his letter-signing history. Below are the highlights of letters signed by large majorities of the U.S. Senate, noting whether Hagel signed or not. On Monday, Hagel told the Lincoln Journal Star regarding this issue, “I didn’t sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn’t solve a problem.”

MARCH 2009

Letter: Asking President Obama to open direct talks with Hamas leaders

Number of signatories: 10 (former and current policy officials, not only serving U.S. senators)

Hagel: Signed (after he had already left the Senate)

JUNE 2008

Letter: Reiterating Israel’s right to self-defense, calling on the U.S. to stand strongly with Israel at the UN, and urging pressure on Arab states to do more to support Israeli-Palestinian talks

Number of signatories:77

Hagel: Did not sign

MARCH 2007

Letter: Request for “no direct aid and no contacts with any members of a Palestinian Authority that does not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous agreements”

Number of signatories:79

Hagel: Did not sign

AUGUST 2006

Letter: Asking the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization

Number of signatories: 88

Hagel: Did not sign

DECEMBER 2005

Letter: Asking President George W. Bush to place pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections

Number of signatories: 73

Hagel: Did not sign

JUNE 2005

Letter: Supporting Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “act decisively to assert his control over the disparate, armed groups in Gaza and the West Bank”

Number of signatories: 77

Hagel: Did not sign

NOVEMBER 2001

Letter: Asking President Bush not to meet Yasser Arafat until Arafat took steps to end violence against Israel

Number of signatories: 89

Hagel: Did not sign

OCTOBER 2000

Letter: Expressing support for Israel after the start of the Second Intifada

Number of signatories: 96

Hagel: Did not sign

MARCH 1999

Resolution: Opposing the unilateral declaration of an independent state by the Palestinians

Votes in support: 98

Hagel: Voted yes

APRIL 1998

Letter: Asking President Bill Clinton not to pressure Israel into accepting a peace proposal with the Palestinians “which is known to be unacceptable.”

Number of signatories: 81

Hagel: Did not sign

Letters and signatories obtained from the archives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Virtual Library

Posted on January 12, 2013 and filed under Conflict, Features, News, U.S., What They're Saying.