I’m endlessly surprised by the New York Times. Today the paper assembles seven foreign-policy “debaters” to put forward questions for Chuck Hagel whose confirmation hearing as Secretary of Defense is tomorrow. And not one debater raises the Israel/Palestine issue! Israel is mentioned in relationship to Iran, but not in relationship to the occupation of Palestine and what that means to US interests in the region. There are no suggested questions on how the lack of Palestinian freedom affects the US and its military. Yet it is Hagel’s views on Israel that could derail his being the next Secretary of Defense. Why didn’t the Times even broach the issue? It really is the third rail; and this inattention increases the likelihood of violence.
The neoconservatives are happy to have this debate. So am I! I think our side (coalition of left and realists) will win. As the Weekly Standard reports, Hagel said in 2003 that Israel keeps “Palestinians caged up like animals.” As I report below, Hagel said in 2007 that Israel has kept the Palestinians “chained” for many, many years.
What does the Times want to talk about? Debater C. Christine Fair asks about Pakistan. Fred Kaplan says Hagel was wrong about the surge in Iraq (a war Kaplan fell for, when falling mattered), then asks about the “insurgency wars” that we might get “roped into.” Tim Weiner asks about threats to Israel:
If Iran develops a nuclear bomb, would it create a strategic parity in the Middle East, as a counterforce to Israel’s arsenal? Would the world be safer, or more dangerous, as a consequence? Do you believe nuclear weapons can be used in battle, or have they become political symbols of power, serving solely to deter an enemy from attacking?
Andrew Bacevich has a realist injection, warning off the Israel lobby, but that’s all.
Below is Hagel during the Iraq war surge in ’07, which he opposed, questioning why the U.S. should “put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.” At 5:30 or so he speaks about Palestinians being “chained”:
“We have totally destroyed our standing and reputation and influence in the Middle East…. We don’t need more American troops…. The human element….But when people have no hope, when they have despair, little else matters. This is not about terrorists do not like freedom. Tell that to the Palestinian people, who have been chained down for many many years. Terrorism is not a strategy, it’s a tactic… Terrorism… is not a belief, like democracy or monarchy, it’s a tactic…. When American loses the trust and confidence of the world, it makes the world more dangerous…”
Update: The Washington Times wants to talk about Israel. It has a piece by Israel lobbyist Kenneth Timmerman, with this cartoon of Hagel as a cheerleader for Iran.