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Monday, January 07, 2013

Game on: Axelrod tweeting in defense of Hagel (and so is Barak Ravid)

Late Sunday night, former 'senior advisor to President Barack Obama' David Axelrod let fly three tweets in support of Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense. The first one is above and the other two are below.

I'm going to leave the first two tweets alone because they don't say anything substantive, but I want to respond to the third one, because I don't believe it's possible to reconcile supporting Israel and supporting Hagel's nomination.

Quite simply, there's a lengthy list of reasons why it's impossible to depict Chuck Hagel as pro-Israel. Last week, I was asked to compile a brief summary for a US Senator of why Chuck Hagel ought not be chosen as Secretary of Defense. Here's what I listed that related to Israel:
“The record speaks for itself, on issues like consistently voting against sanctions on Iran to stop their pursuit of nuclear weapons capability, against naming [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] a terrorist organization, refusing to call on the European Union to name Hezbollah — which has killed more Americans than any terrorist group in the world except Al Qaeda — as a terrorist organization,” said Josh Block, a former AIPAC spokesman.

- In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
- In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
- In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refsued to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yassir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.
- In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections. 
- In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit. (Source).

[Hagel quotes]:
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.”
Hagel is a nominee who would thrill the Walt-Mearsheimer Lobby:
In an interview quoted in Aaron David Miller’s book on the peace process called The Much Too Promised Land, Hagel said: “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” 
Hagel then described a meeting he had in New York with a group of supporters of Israel, one of whom suggested Hagel wasn’t supportive enough of Israel. Hagel said he responded: “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.”
Atlantic Council (chaired by Hagel) home blog does post entitled "Israel's apartheid policy":

To paraphrase a well-known saying, it's far better to let people say you're an anti-Semite than to open your mouth and confirm it.

The blog pictured above is the home blog of the Atlantic Council, which is chaired by US Secretary of Defense candidate Chuck Hagel.
Critics have long used the debunked apartheid analogy as a way to delegitimize and slander Israel. With the buzz growing over Hagel’s potential nomination, it’s surprising that his organization would publish such a blatant attack on Israel on the front page of its website on today of all days.
Elliot Engel (D-NY):
In an interview Friday taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, conducted jointly by The Cable and Politico, Engel said that Hagel's record on Israel and Iran make him a poor choice to lead the military. In particular, Engel said he was irked by Hagel's reference to the "Jewish lobby" in an interview with former official Aaron David Miller. (Miller supports Hagel's nomination.)
"I think that remark is troublesome, it's problematic. It shows at the very best a lack of sensitivity, at the very worst perhaps a prejudice. And I'm concerned about it, I'm concerned about the nomination," Engel said. "If I were doing the appointing, I would not appoint Chuck Hagel."
Engel, who represents the Bronx, Rockland, and Westchester, said he has been hearing a lot of opposition to the potential Hagel nomination from his constituents. He also said that Hagel's activities related to Israel, including his statements on Hamas and Israel's influence in Washington, show a pattern of "hostility."
"It seems there is some kind of an endemic hostility towards Israel and that's troublesome to me and troublesome to a lot of people," Engel said. "In the sensitive post of secretary of defense, those are warning bells. Those are red lights."
Finally, I'd like to respond to an Israeli defender of Hagel (unfortunately, there are some). Haaretz's Barak Ravid sent out three tweets in response to Axelrod's support for Hagel. I'm embedding them below with a response to each of them.

Although I would personally oppose it, there is a huge difference between the Israeli government speaking with Hamas (and while Ravid may have some inside information, I am not aware of any current talks with Hamas, and certainly not any direct talks between Israel and Hamas) and someone else trying to force the Israeli government to speak with Hamas. The latter - which Hagel apparently favors - is clearly out of place.

Here's the second one:

Again, there's a big difference between calling for a dialogue with Iran to stop the nuclear program and opposing sanctions against Iran (as Hagel has done) which might bring Iran to the table and give that dialogue a chance of succeeding. Since Israel is Iran's first target, anything that discourages Iran from taking steps to stop its nuclear program should be deemed anti-Israel.

Here's the third tweet.

The issue with Hagel has nothing to do with Israeli government policy. The Israeli government has not taken a position on Hagel, nor will it take a position on Hagel. The problems with Hagel aren't his criticisms of Israeli government policy but his lack of support for Israel regardless of its policies.

For those who follow me on Twitter, I've tweeted much of the above to Barak Ravid (whom I follow on Twitter) and to David Axelrod (whom I don't follow), and I will let you know on Twitter if I get any responses.



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