Chuck Hagel, the embattled nominee for US Secretary of Defense, reportedly said in a 2010 speech that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” by refusing to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. (Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said much the same in an address in Israel in February of that year.)
Hagel, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran and former Nebraska senator, has come under fire from Jewish and Republican groups for his voting record on pro-Israel resolutions and past statements in which he expressed emphatic opposition to a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In a speech at Rutgers University in April 2010, Hagel accused Israel of violating every UN resolution since 1967 as well as agreements with the Middle East “quartet” — four entities involved in the peace process — the Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday.
The report was based on an email that one attendee, Kenneth Wagner, claimed to have sent to The American Israel Public Affairs Committee at the time of the speech.
Wagner, whom the Free Beacon describes as a pro-Israel activist, wrote at the time that Hagel said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “was a radical and that even [former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi] Livni, who was hard nosed, thought he was too radical and so wouldn’t join in a coalition [government] with him. … He said that Hamas has to be brought in to any peace negotiation.”
On Thursday, the Free Beacon reported that Hagel called the US State Department an extension of the Israeli government at Rutgers in 2007. That report was based on a contemporaneous account of the speech written by a Hagel supporter, and spurred a number of Jewish groups and Republicans to call for Hagel to explain his statements.
While Senate Democrats have pushed for confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick for the job, Republicans have held up the vote until they receive answers from the White House about how the attack on the US Embassy in Libya in September was handled.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.