Chuck Hagel Voted in Favor of AIPAC-Supported John Bolton


hagel twn clemons dc.jpgChuck Hagel voted in favor of John Bolton’s nomination
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to serve as US Ambassador to the
United Nations.  This is important
history as many attempting to sabotage Hagel’s potential nomination as
Secretary of Defense are hyping his reticence about unilateral sanctions
against rogue nations and his refusal to jump on a couple of hug-Israel

The Bolton nomination was important because it was a high
priority “get” by the hawkish wing of the hug-Israel-tightly lobby.  I worked hard then, in 2005, against Bolton’s
nomination by President Bush because I saw Bolton as the vanguard of an
emergent class of Jesse Helms-inspired pugnacious nationalists who had deep
disdain for and resentment against international institutions and
treaties.   Their paranoia about the UN
has led to moments like the recent Senate rejection of the UN Convention on
Persons with Disabilities.

Those who see being pro-Israel as giving in to an
emotionalism that draws no lines at disruptive and reckless Israel behavior
wanted John Bolton badly, and I did my best to sway Chuck Hagel on his
vote.  I failed.  Hagel voted in the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee in favor of Bolton – while Ohio Republican George Voinovich refused
to endorse.

In later stages of the John Bolton battle, Senator Chuck
Schumer made the statement in a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting that “a vote
against Bolton was a vote against Israel.” 
Schumer, who strongly supported Bolton, was wrong on that front.  Every US Ambassador to the UN has been a
friend to Israel and has been supportive of Israel’s security interests.  Every US President has been supportive of
Israel’s core security interests – but there are legitimate differences on what
pro-Israel means. 

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, has a history
of making disgusting, bigoted comments about Palestinians and Arabs.  He is a disgrace to Israel – and I find it
objectionable that he sits in the Israeli Cabinet at the right hand of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  My
stating that I find one, or even a few, of the leaders of Israel to be
short-sighted, wrong-headed, and ultimately reckless about the security and
interests of their own nation does not make me or anyone an anti-Semite or
anti-Israel.  I had respect for Prime
Minister Ohlmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – and have grown to respect a
number of the positions of Ariel Sharon. 

But Chuck Hagel voted for John Bolton, who just before his
appearance before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that there
is no moral equivalence between innocents killed in Lebanon during Israel’s
strike there – and those Israelis who may have been killed by Hezbollah
incursions into Israel.  Again, I’m
disgusted by what were Bolton’s public remarks – which the State Department had
the good sense to excise from his testimony moments before he gave it (issuing
one set of remarks with the statements and then another without).

But Chuck Hagel voted for the guy Chuck Schumer wanted.  And AIPAC wanted.  And Israel itself no doubt wanted.

Bolton got a recess appointment – but he never got his
confirmation vote.  And who was the block
on this great friend of Israel and anti-United Nations crusader from getting

Not Chuck Hagel.  Try
Senator Joseph Lieberman who refused to vote in favor of cloture because the
Executive Branch would not share vital but classified information with Congress
– either in the Base Relocation debate or in the John Bolton Case.  Then Senator Lincoln Chafee gave another
assist at the final stage of the battle – but the three Senators who got in the
way of the AIPAC-desired John Bolton were George Voinovich, Joseph Lieberman,
and Lincoln Chafee.

Not Chuck Hagel. 

Hagel’s instabake critics need to read up on some history
and some facts about the man.  It’s
irresponsible of the Wall Street Journal and other publications to cast around
the slanderous accusation of anti-Semitism, which is akin to bigotry and
racism, when there are legitimate policy differences about Israel policy

Hagel has been a steadfast supporter of Israel and its
interests – and has been the kind of friend to step back and not support
Israel’s Congressional Resolution production machinery when it is
hyperventilating in ways that hurt itself. 

Hagel is a genuine friend of Israel’s long term interests and believes
that the status quo in Israel today is undermining Israel’s status as a
democratic and Jewish state. 
Controversial statement?  Just
about every responsible Israeli political official has said exactly the same.

— Steve Clemons is Washington Editor at Large at The Atlantic, where this post first appeared. Clemons can be followed on Twitter at @SCClemons


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