Two U.S. senators have written a letter to Chuck Hagel to ask the defense secretary nominee to explain his assertion that "the State Department was becoming an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry." Hagel, the Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday, made the comment in 2007.
"Dear Senator Hagel," Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte write. "Yesterday, the Washington Free Beacon reported that in a 2007 speech at Rutgers University regarding America's relationship with the Middle East you remarked that 'the State Department was becoming an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.' According to notes posted on the internet by a Republican political consultant and supporter of yours, George Ajjan, you made the remarks during the question and answer period following the speech."
The senators attached a copy of the article they reference to the letter they sent to Hagel.
"Given the importance of U.S. policy towards the Middle East and the Secretary of Defense's direct role in implementing this policy, it is critical that we have a better understanding of your remarks before we vote on your confirmation," the senators write.
"Did you, in fact, make this statement at the Rutgers event of have you ever made similar comments? If you made these comments or similar comments please explain what you meant. Finally, does such a statement in any way reflect your views about the U.S.-Israel relationship?"
The senators, they write, "look forward to [Senator Hagel's] response."