In the Senate, Hagel voted to give the George W. Bush administration authority to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but later he harshly criticized the conduct of both wars, irritating fellow Republicans and making him popular with Democrats critical of those wars.
Critics have focused on his calls for direct negotiations with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that the U.S. and Israel refuse to deal with directly, and his votes against some Iran sanctions.
And Hagel rankled many with comments he made in a 2006 interview with author and former State Department Mideast peace negotiator Aaron David Miller. “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” Hagel said, but “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”
Graham said: “Quite frankly, Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking, I believe, on most issues regarding foreign policy. . This an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.”
Miller, who had interviewed Hagel for a book he was writing on the Mideast peace negotiations, wrote recently that attempts to use his comment about the “Jewish lobby” to paint Hagel as anti-Semitic were “shameful and scurrilous.” He noted that in the same interview, Hagel emphasized “shared values and the importance of Israeli security.”
Backers say Hagel showed his support for Israel by voting repeatedly to provide it with military aid and by calling for a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians that should not include any compromise regarding Israel’s Jewish identity and that would leave Israel “free to live in peace and security.”
They note that he also supported three major Iran sanctions bills: the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act of 1998, the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 and the Iran Freedom Support Act of 2006.