Chuck Hagel is a poor choice for US Secretary of Defense. We are deeply concerned how this will impact both America and Israel – and how it may harm the US-Israel strategic relationship.

Hagel once stated, “Iran had rights for women long before many countries in the world. Women could vote, I actually think before they could vote in America.” Actually, this is not factually correct. Iranian women were only given the right to vote in 1963, under the Shah, way after American women were. However, since the mullah’s came to power, Iranian women’s rights virtually don’t exist. Presently in Iran, it is standard practice for virgins on death row to be raped before they are executed, so that they will be barred from paradise according to Islamist religious belief. Furthermore, under the present regime in Iran, women are stoned to death in a brutal and prolonged fashion if accused of adultery. Often, as the book The Stoning of Soraya M. demonstrates, the woman is innocent.

In 2005, Hagel was only one of 27 senators who declined to sign a letter to former President Bush, to ban Palestinian terrorist organizations from participating in Palestinian elections. As we saw, by allowing groups like Hamas to run for office, terrorists have risen to power in Gaza and there have been no democratic elections since that date. Hagel made this catastrophic decision, despite the fact that Palestinian terrorist groups have murdered at least 53 Americans and wounded an additional 83 Americans.

In August 2006, Hagel was only one of twelve US Senators who refused to call upon the European Union to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. He did this despite the fact that Hezbollah has the blood of hundreds of Americans on its hands, including 241 US marines, soldiers and sailors who were murdered in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing; 17 Americans who were slaughtered in the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut; and 18 US servicemen who were killed in the 1984 bombing of a restaurant near a US air base in Torrejon, Spain. In addition, Hezbollah has been strongly implicated in the 1996 Khober Towers Truck bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans and the 2008 attack on a US Embassy motorcade in Beirut. Since 2001, at least 21 Hezbollah linked terrorism cases have been prosecuted by the US Justice Department, yet Hagel still doesn’t consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

But as if that were not bad enough, in January 2007, Hagel opposed the Surge in Iraq, referring to it as “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” The Surge had rescued the United States from a humiliating defeat and gave Iraq a decent opportunity to stand on its own two feet. The surge also had the potential for long-term security cooperation between Iraq and the United States. Yet, Hagel doesn’t acknowledge any of these facts. Even more troubling, he doesn’t believe that the military option should be on the table when it comes to Iran. The only time that Iran ever abandoned her nuclear program in the past was after the US invaded Iraq, when Iran believed that she was next. It should be revealing that the Iranian media has nothing but positive things to say about his nomination.

Indeed, Nebraska’s Jewish community, which knows Hagel best, doesn’t have any thing positive to say about him. Former editor of the Omaha Jewish Press, Carol Katzman, asserted, “Hagel was the only one we have had in Nebraska, who basically showed the Jewish community that he didn’t give a damn about the Jewish community or any of our concerns.” According to Gary Javitch, a local Nebraska Jewish activist, Hagel always placed the blame on Israel, demanding “more and more concessions, Israel was at fault when things went wrong, the Palestinians didn’t need to adhere to any standard.” He also claimed that during his last year in office he never responded to any requests for meetings from any one in the Nebraska Jewish community and prior to that, when meetings did occur, he always dominated the conversations and prevented members of the Jewish community from speaking. An atrociously unresponsive senator is not suited to hold any public office, especially a senior level one.

In short, we believe that Chuck Hagel is a poor choice for US Secretary of Defense and can negatively impact the special US-Israel relationship.

By Rachel Avraham