The vast majority of the questions that came up throughout the first round of questioning Chuck Hagel in his bid for Secretary of Defense related to Hagel’s stances on Israel and Iran, and his past statements on those issues. Many of those questions involved deliberate distortions of Hagel’s record. Inhofe started off the second round of questioning during the hearing with more of the same, but with the added twist of spurning the past decade of U.S. policy in solving the conflict.
“You made a statement that I strongly disagree with. You said that President Obama has been ‘the strongest Israel supporter since 1948’,” Inhofe said in the lead-off, continuing to criticize Obama for promoting the two-state solution:
INHOFE: But when you see statements coming out of the administration like “the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt,” and they’ve come out with statements saying they believe that the borders with Israel and Palestine should be based on a 1967 border lines, these are statements that I think are very damaging. I can assure you that the leadership in Israel feels those statements are damaging.
As Hagel attempted to tell Inhofe, the statements that the Ranking Member read off weren’t new or unique to the Obama administration, nor were they at all controversial. The U.S.’ adoption of the principle of two neighboring states as the final outcome of the conflict dates back to the first term of President George W. Bush. In a 2002 speech, Bush embraced the concept of an Israel and Palestine living peacefully side by side. The resulting “Road Map to Peace,” and several statements of support by the Quartet — composed of the European Union, Russia, United Nations, and U.S. — have been the basis for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians since.
The concept of “Land for Peace” goes back even further. As part of the end of the Six-Day War in 1967, in which Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the United Nations passed Resolution 242 calling for a withdrawal of Israel to its previous borders. In exchange for this, Israel’s neighbors would declare end their hostility towards the state. That arrangement has yet to come into being but remain a crucial part of the negotiations between the parties. Complicating matters have been the increase of Israeli settlements, particularly under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the inability of the competing Palestinian factions to resolve their differences, causing a halt in talks.
All of this highlights just how far outside of the mainstream Hagel’s attackers are when it comes to Israel. Hagel, who has himself proven to be pro-Israel, would carry out the policies of President Obama once confirmed. Those policies have the backing of the international community and have been endorsed by such conservative stalwarts as the Heritage Foundation.