That lobby would include the most prominent of the pro-Israeli lobbies, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which immodestly acknowledges its own power over Congress, boldly claiming on its e-mails that it is “Consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill.”
What was most disappointing about Hagel’s lackluster performance was his backing away from his previously stated, utterly rational views on many subjects, often in the face of hectoring from fellow Republicans who were clearly playing to conservative constituents.
When Graham asked Hagel to “name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby,” the answer should have been “a good part of today’s eight-hour hearing.”
Israel and some of Hagel’s past remarks were the most discussed issue as the committee supposedly tried to determine the qualifications of the former Nebraska senator and how he might as secretary of the Department of Defense deal with Pentagon problems.
There was also an interesting pattern throughout the hearing as different Republicans raised elements of past Hagel statements dealing with Israel.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) focused on a 2002 Hagel floor statement dealing with Palestinian terrorist bombings in Jerusalem and Israel’s military responses. More than 10 years ago Hagel had said, “We understand Israel’s right to defend ourself — itself. We’re committed to that. We’ve 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.”
Lee then said, “Some who have read that have reacted with concern that this may be indicative of a feeling on your part that there might be some moral equivalency between, on the one hand, Israel’s exercise of its right to defend itself and, on the other hand, Palestinian terrorism. Do you believe that there is a moral equivalency between these two things?”
Hagel responded, “No, absolutely not.” Lee went on to lecture him “how others might read this statement in such a way that could leave them with that impression.” Was Lee saying that making any statement that “some” may interpret as not totally supporting all Israeli actions could disqualify Hagel?
Two Republicans brought up Hagel’s 2006 speech on the Senate floor about Israel’s 34-day military response to an attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. Acknowledging that Hezbollah started the fighting, Hagel said: “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? The sickening slaughter on both sides must end, and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop.”