Report: Hagel Said State Department Controlled by Israel

Contemporaneous account by Hagel supporter of 2007 speech

Chuck Hagel / AP
February 14, 2013

Fox News Channel on Tuesday reported that secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel failed to disclose to the United States Senate speeches delivered to controversial groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee as well as James Zogby's Arab American Institute.

Meanwhile, a 2007 speech then-Sen. Hagel delivered at Rutgers University in New Jersey as he tested the waters for a presidential run is drawing fresh scrutiny.

Hagel said the U.S. Department of State was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office, according to a contemporaneous report of the event.

Republican political consultant and Hagel supporter George Ajjan wrote about the March 2, 2007, speech on his website the following day, writing a description "point by point through some of the more important elements of his speech."

"Point six":

The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's office...

Wow. A very bold statement by Hagel bound to further raise the ire of the "Jewish Lobby" (yawn...), but it does express his strong belief in a comprehensive solution to problems in the Middle East. Hagel mentioned this theme several times - comprehensive, he said, in the sense that all tools should be used to achieve American foreign policy objectives (diplomatic, political, economic, and military), but also comprehensive in the James Baker sense of addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict holistically as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have proved too lazy and too incompetent to do.

Reached by phone, Ajjan confirmed his 2007 account of the event, saying he was "taking notes as [Hagel] was speaking."

"If I wrote it, then that’s what happened at the time," Ajjan told the Free Beacon.

He added that the event, which was cosponsored by the Rutgers University Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the American Iranian Council, was closed to the press.

"When [Hagel] said the State Department was becoming an adjunct of the Israeli ministry, I think that was during the Q&A," said Ajjan. "Even in the blog, I was surprised that he said that. It was a very bold statement."

Ajjan said he has "been a supporter of Hagel for a long time" and admired his opposition to the Iraq war in particular.

"Back in ’07, I was hoping that he was going to throw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential primaries," he said.

Ajjan, who ran for Congress in 2004, added he would still support a Hagel presidential bid today.

"I’d be delighted to see Hagel mount some sort of third party candidacy," he said. "If he makes it through these confirmation hearings you really couldn’t ask for a better pedigree."

On his Twitter feed, Ajjan expresses criticism of neoconservatives, Israel, and the war on terror that is commonplace among Hagel supporters.

Rutgers University and a spokesperson for Hagel did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Update (2:55 p.m.): BuzzFeed found and published Hagel's prepared remarks for the event, which can be read here, but not the question and answer section of the event. The Washington Free Beacon is still working to obtain a transcript of that portion of the event.