Hagel said Israel headed toward apartheid and called Netanyahu a ‘radical,’ says new report. 15 Senators urge President to withdraw nomination.

Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31 (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31 (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

UPDATE: A group of 15 U.S. Senators has written a letter to the President, urging him to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. They include: Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, James Inhofe, Lindsey Graham, Roger Wicker, David Vitter, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, Dan Coats, Ron Johnson, James Risch, John Barrasso, Tom Coburn and Tim Scott. Outside groups, include Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices, are also working to stall the nomination.

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“Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel said Israel is on its way to becoming an apartheid state during an April 9, 2010, appearance at Rutgers University, according to a contemporaneous account by an attendee,” reports the Washington Free Beacon. “Hagel also accused Israel of violating U.N. resolutions, called for U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas to be included in any peace negotiations, and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a ‘radical,’ according to the source.”

The Israeli media has picked up the story, and several major American Jewish organizations are asking Hagel for explanations of his comments before the Senate proceeds with a vote. Here are other disturbing quotes by Hagel on Israel, Iran and U.S. defense matters.

I continue to believe that Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, is a terrible choice to be the SecDef. His confirmation would send the wrong message at precisely the wrong time to Iran, Hamas and Radical Islamic enemies of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East. Thus far, the Hagel confirmation vote has been held up. Sen. John McCain has come out against Hagel’s confirmation. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward says several Senate Democrats have called the White House to ask if Hagel’s nomination will be withdrawn. There is concern among Democrats that Hagel is not truly qualified to be the SecDef, that he is to the left of the President on key issues like Iran. There is also concern among many in Washington that with his lackluster performance during the hearings, Hagel has undermined his own credibility at a time when there will be a critical need for close cooperation between Congress and the Pentagon on budget issues and on international matters, including the Iran nuclear threat. The latest report of Hagel’s imflammatory comments on Israel and her Prime Minister certainly isn’t helping matters.

Excerpts from the Washington Free Beacon story:

  • Kenneth Wagner, who attended the 2010 speech while a Rutgers University law student, provided the Washington Free Beacon with an email he sent during the event to a contact at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The email is time-stamped April 9, 2010, at 11:37 AM….
  • The Free Beacon reported Thursday on a contemporaneous account of another speech then-Senator Hagel gave at Rutgers in 2007. The report, written by Hagel supporter and political consultant George Ajjan, claimed Hagel had described the U.S. Department of State as an extension of the Israeli government.
  • Sens. Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte on Friday sent a letter to Hagel requesting an explanation of the alleged comments. The Anti-Defamation League also called on Hagel to explain, and the American Jewish Committee said, “Further Senate deliberation is called for before any final vote is taken.”
  • Hagel has disavowed the remarks and says he does not recall making them….
  • The Free Beacon is working to obtain transcript and video of Hagel’s comments during the question and answer sessions at Rutgers in both 2007 and 2010, and is continuing to speak to others who attended both events.

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