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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is campaigning for Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania today. Perhaps Bloomberg, an independent Republican with a strong pro-Israel record, is there to help cover up Sestak's tarnished record on Israel. But in reality, Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska with a "questionable" record on Israel, is perhaps the Republican Sestak admires most.
During an August 3 forum, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak was asked who he admires in Congress. "Chuck Hagel--who just left--he's the number one guy I met," Sestak replies in a YouTube video passed on by a Republican source. "I talked to him probably every couple of weeks."
"He's willing to say the right things and work in a principled way," said Sestak. "I think he's the guy I most admired in the Senate." Sestak has been fending off questions from the Emergency Committee for Israel regarding his speaking at a fundraiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations, refusing to sign letters in support of Israel, and signing a letter accusing Israel of inflicting "collective punishment" on Palestinians. Though the National Jewish Democratic Council has defended Sestak as "A True Friend to Israel," the NJDC says that Sestak's role model, Chuck Hagel, has a "Questionable Israel Record"
- In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
- In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
- In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refsued to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yassir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.
- In December 2005, Hagel was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authroity to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.
- In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
Here's what the National Review wrote about Hagel's stance on Israel in 2002:
"There's nothing Hagel likes less than talking about right and wrong in the context of foreign policy. Pro-Israeli groups view him almost uniformly as a problem. "He doesn't always cast bad votes, but he always says the wrong thing," comments an Israel supporter who watches Congress. An April speech is a case in point. "We will need a wider lens to grasp the complex nature and consequences of terrorism," said Hagel. He went on to cite a few examples of terrorism: FARC in Colombia, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, and the Palestinian suicide bombers. Then he continued, "Arabs and Palestinians view the civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military occupation as terrorism." He didn't exactly say he shares this view — but he also failed to reject it."
And here's what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:
“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel …” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]
So did Hagel and Sestak ever talk about Israel during their frequent meetings? Is Hagel a better indication of what kind of "friend of Israel" Sestak would really be?