Report: Hagel called Netanyahu a radical, said Israel was at risk of becoming an apartheid state

Alternate headline: “Liberals remember why they like Chuck Hagel.”

Two problems here. Problem one: Like the earlier report when he allegedly said that the State Department is controlled by Israel’s foreign ministry, there’s no hard proof. There’s not even a direct quote. It sounds like him, which isn’t something you can say of most would-be cabinet members, but good luck getting any Democrats to cross Obama and switch their votes based on that.

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.

“I am sitting in a lecture by Chuck Hagel at Rutgers,” Wagner wrote in the email. “He basically said that Israel has violated every UN resolution since 1967, that Israel has violated its agreements with the quartet, that it was risking becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t allow the Palestinians to form a state. He said that the settlements were getting close to the point where a contiguous Palestinian state would be impossible.”

“He said that he [thought] that Netanyahu was a radical and that even [former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi] Livni, who was hard nosed thought he was too radical and so wouldn’t join in a coalition [government] with him. … He said that Hamas has to be brought in to any peace negotiation,” Wagner wrote.

Rather Hagelian, but if you’re willing to support him when we know for a fact he’s referred to the “Jewish lobby,” why wouldn’t you support him after this? It’s not like he was poised to have a warm relationship with Bibi and Israel’s defense ministry until the Rutgers stuff surfaced. Obama’s fully prepared for relations with Israel to be further strained in his second term; he’d have never considered this nomination if he wasn’t. (Worth a presidential medal, don’t you think?) Which brings us to the second problem. Dave Weigel did some googling and discovered that ominous warnings of apartheidism are no bar to cabinet appointments … even in Israel:

I’ve obtained a quote from Hagel saying this in February 2010.

“As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

My mistake! That wasn’t Hagel. That was Ehud Barak, speaking in his capacity as Israel’s defense minister. If we accept the text of the email, Hagel didn’t accuse Israel of being or becoming an apartheid state. Wagner has Hagel saying that Israel risk[ed] becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t allow the Palestinians to form a state, and saying that two months after Israel’s former PM and contemporary defense minister had said it.

A former Democratic president once wrote an entire book on this subject. But then, it’s probably a mistake to view these reports of questionable speeches individually rather than in the aggregate. The point here isn’t to find one single thing that Hagel’s said that’ll instantly disqualify him, it’s to give the Democrats a headache that pounds harder, day by day over the next week, so that when they come back to D.C. they’re ready to purge themselves of this whole business. Makes me wonder, in fact, if Hagel’s opponents aren’t discovering this stuff every few days but rather have a pile of it amassed and are now following a Breitbartian strategy of dribbling it out daily to steadily increase the pressure. All his opponents need, really, is a crack in the dam, just one Democrat to say “enough.” Anyone willing to do that, preferably/possibly a southern Dem up for reelection who wouldn’t mind putting some distance between him/her and The One? Mark Pryor? Mary Landrieu? Anyone?

Read Dan Foster on the two scenarios for the Pentagon if Hagel ends up being confirmed. Either he’ll be an incompetent manager of a White House defense strategy that’s more hawkish than he’d prefer or he’ll be an able spokesman for an incompetent, more dovish White House strategy. Being an eeyore, I can imagine him being an incompetent manager of an incompetent strategy, but who knows? Maybe one of the reasons O wants Hagel is that he expects that he or Netanyahu will have to order an attack on Iran’s nuke facilities in his second term and he wants some political cover from his more dovish SecDef when he does it. Hagel’s “brand” is his chief value to Obama, after all; he’s a Republican stamp of approval on defense cuts. Why wouldn’t he be a paleocon stamp of approval on a war with Iran too?

Update: Touche: