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Hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services - Confirmation Hearing of the Nomination of the Honorable Charles T. Hagel

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

The committee will come back to order.
Senator Lee.

Senator LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Senator Hagel, for joining us today and for answering
the questions that have been asked to you so far. I'd like to talk
to you for a few minutes about Israel. Israel is, I believe, America's
most important ally, certainly in the Middle East and in many respects
in the entire world. A lot of people in this body are concerned,
quite appropriately, about making sure that that alliance
remains strong, about making sure, about making sure that our interests
as Americans are protected abroad. A lot of us feel like one
of the best ways of protecting American national security is
through that alliance in the Middle East.
On April 12, 2002, there was a Palestinian terrorist who detonated
a bomb in downtown Jerusalem, killing 6 Israelis and
wounding I believe about 100 others. On that
day, while you were still serving in the U.S. Senate, you gave a
speech on the Senate floor. You made a couple of comments that
I'd like to discuss with you and ask you a little bit about.
In one segment of the speech you said: ""We understand Israel's
right to defend itself. We're committed to that. We've helped Israel
defend that right. We will continue to do so. But it should not be
at the expense of the Palestinian people, innocent Palestinian people,
and innocent Israelis who are paying a high price.''
Some who have read that have reacted with concern that this
may be indicative of a feeling on your part that there might be
some moral equivalency between on the one hand Israel's exercise
of its right to defend itself and on the other hand Palestinian terrorism.
Do you believe that there is a moral equivalency between
these two things?

Senator HAGEL. Oh, absolutely not, Senator.

Senator LEE. Do you understand how others might read this
statement in such a way that could leave them with that impression?

Senator HAGEL. I do.

Senator LEE. How do you respond to it? In other words, do--do
Palestinians, let's say those Palestinians who have engaged in acts
of terrorism, perhaps in retaliation against Israel for Israel defending
itself, do they have a legitimate gripe?

Senator HAGEL. Well, terrorism can never be justified under any
circumstances.

Senator LEE. Is their grievance legitimate?

Senator HAGEL. The Palestinians?

Senator LEE. Yes, the Palestinians who decide to strap a bomb
onto themselves and detonate it or otherwise engage in acts of terror;
do they have a legitimate grievance that they're expressing?

Senator HAGEL. Well, they have grievances. A lot of people have
grievances--

Senator LEE. Are those grievances legitimate?

Senator HAGEL.--but not a justification for terrorism and killing
innocent people, never.

Senator LEE. Are they on par with the grievances that innocent
Israelis have when they become the victims of violent acts?

Senator HAGEL. I don't think you can judge whether it's Israelis
or Palestinians or anybody in the world in separating innocent victims
of terrorism.

Senator LEE. Well, I think you can in some circumstances, can't
you? I mean--

Senator HAGEL. Not victims.

Senator LEE. For heaven's sakes, though--oh, okay, maybe not
victims. Can you, and indeed must you not, judge when it comes
to one group of people who may at least be willing to recognize the
other group of people's right to exist?

Senator HAGEL. Absolutely. In fact, I'm clearly on the record on
that point. In fact, in 2006 there was the Anti-Palestinian Terrorist
Act that I voted for, and there are a number of other resolutions,
acts, votes, speeches I've made. In my book I have said unequivocally
Hezbollah, Hamas specifically, they must renounce terrorism,
and first they must accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish homeland,
respect the borders, protect the borders. Absolutely, I've made
that very clear.

Senator LEE. Okay. Now, later on in the same speech you asked
a question. You asked--you referred to the fact, that we really need
to develop peace in the Middle East, and you asked the question:
""Who guarantees this peace?'' You then continue by asking another
question: ""If in fact we expect Israel to pull back to their pre-1967
borders, who guarantees that peace?″
Does this, Senator Hagel, reflect sentiment on your part that
that is a legitimate way of solving the peace process, of bringing
about peace in Israel, in the Middle East, is by asking Israel to
withdraw to its pre-1967 borders?

Senator HAGEL. No, not at all. What I said was, as you just
quoted me, who guarantees the security of Israel's borders? Israel's
borders must be secure. That's part of the fundamentals of the
Quartet Principles of 2006, in fact, the UN Resolutions 242 and 337
and other resolutions. That's paramount, the guarantee of the security
of Israel and its borders.

Senator LEE. I understand that part of the question related to
how we bring about that peace, and I want to get back to that in
a minute. But another part of the question started from the
premise that Israel would be withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders.
Do you view that as a tenable solution? Do you believe such borders
are militarily defensible?

Senator HAGEL. I think that's all negotiable. I mean, the Quartet
Principles of 2006, which President Bush laid down, and a twostate
solution, all those issues have to be resolved. Land for peace,
trading land, all those issues are final status issues that are absolutely
key to the future of Israel or before Israel can agree to anything.

Senator LEE. So you're saying that you might describe a resolution
of this crisis involving withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders as
perhaps one among several tenable solutions?

Senator HAGEL. Well, it's part of what's been talked about and
defined in, as I said, the 2006 Quartet Principles and U.N. resolutions
that that is part of a final status set of issues that have to
be resolved. The United States and no other country can impose
that on Israel. That is a negotiable issue, but it's been out there,
and that remains to be dealt with in negotiations.

Senator LEE. Is it one that you think the United States should
encourage?

Senator HAGEL. I would encourage peace and a secure, safe
Israel. That's what I think most of us would want to see.

Senator LEE. Okay. Now, in 2009 you made a statement suggesting
that U.S. ground troops''--U.S. ground troops should be
sent to that part of the world and installed as UN peacekeepers in
a ""non-militarized Palestinian state.'' Is this something you stand
behind today? Is this an approach that you think is appropriate?

Senator HAGEL. Senator, I don't have the facts behind me, in
front of me, but I don't think that that was a recommendation I
was making. If I recall, my comments--and you may be able to give
me exactly the comments--were in the context of how do you secure
Israel's border, who secures Israel's border? For example, General
Brent Scowcroft has suggested at times maybe this is a role,
a peacekeeping role for NATO. That was what that was all about.

Senator LEE. Senator, my time has expired. I need to ask you
one more question. I understand that you have made a statement
indicating that there is no justification for Palestinian suicide
bombers, but that there is also no justification for Israel to ""keep
Palestinians caged up like animals.'' Did you say that, and if so do
you stand by that statement today?

Senator HAGEL. Well, I said it, and I don't remember the context
or when I said it. But--

Senator LEE. Do you believe today that Israel keeps Palestinians
caged up like animals?

Senator HAGEL. No. If I had an opportunity to edit that, like
many things I've said, I would like to go back and change the
words and the meaning. No, it was I think in a larger context. I've
said many, many things over many years. It was a larger context
of the frustration and what's happening, which is not in Israel's interest,
to find ways that we can help bring peace and security to
Israel.
If I had a chance to go back and edit it, I would. I regret that
I used those words.

Senator LEE. Thank you.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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