Monday, 18 February 2013

Hagel letter disavows alleged old comments on Israel

 In a letter sent to one of his sharpest critics Saturday, Chuck Hagel stated he could not remember and disavowed a report from 2007 where the Defense Department nominee was characterized as describing the State Department as an "adjunct" to the Israeli government.

That was how a blog post written in 2007 wrote about Hagel's speech on U.S. policy towards Iran. Hagel wrote to his critic Sen. Lindsey Graham, saying "I do not recall making any such statement, or ever making any similar statement. I completely disavow the content of the alleged statement attributed to me." Read that letter provided to CNN by a source here.

Graham said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday that the letter satisfies his questions about the comment, which was described but not quoted in that 2007 post.

"Well, if in fact that's true, that would end that matter," Graham said. "So, I'll just take him at his word unless something new comes along."

But had Hagel not repudiated the alleged comment, that combined with his remark the same year that the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers" would show Hagel's view "of the Israeli-U.S. relationship [was] way out of mainstream," Graham said.

Hagel's views towards Israel and Iran, as well as his position on nuclear arms, have been at the crux of Republican concerns with his nomination. They also demanded additional information from the Obama administration about the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, which was provided late last week.

GOP senators stalled Hagel's nomination last week with a filibuster, though it is expected to pass in a vote when lawmakers return from this week's recess.

In his letter, Hagel wrote, "Over the course of my career, both in and out of government, I have given many speeches and interviews and made countless remarks affirming the vital importance of the United States' special relationship with Israel - one that is based upon our shared values and security interests."

He sent the letter to Graham and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, also a critic of Hagel; Carl Levin, chairman of the committee considering Hagel's nomination; and James Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hagel said his remarks in the 2007 speech "expressed support for the Bush Administration's on-going diplomatic efforts in the Middle East at that time." Sen. John McCain, another persistent questioner of Hagel, said Thursday the Republican criticism of their former colleague goes back to "ill will" towards him "because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly."

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