Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, co-authored a 2009 report that called for U.S. troops to lead a peacekeeping force that would patrol the future borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.
The report, referenced Saturday by Israel National News, also suggested that peace could be imposed from outside by the U.S., describing arguments to the contrary as “invalid.”
The report, co-authored by Hagel with Carter administration Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former George H.W. Bush adviser Brent Scowcroft, among others, was produced in an effort to influence Obama administration policy in the president’s first term. It called upon the new president to make resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority “early in his presidency” and to override “certain domestic constituencies.”
The report called for the U.S. military to be deployed as part of its suggested plan for peace:
A non-militarized Palestinian state, together with security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty, and a U.S.- led multinational force to ensure a peaceful transitional security period. This coalition peacekeeping structure, under UN mandate, would feature American leadership of a NATO force supplemented by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis. We can envision a five-year, renewable mandate with the objective of achieving full Palestinian domination of security affairs on the Palestine side of the line within 15 years.
In addition, the report called for the U.S. to encourage Israeli-Syrian negotiations, and to take a “more pragmatic approach” to the Hamas terror organization in control of Gaza.
Hagel would not be the first Obama administration official to advocate the deployment of U.S. troops to the area. In 2002, Obama adviser Samantha Power called for the U.S. to provide “a “meaningful military presence” in the “new state of Palestine” to carry out the “imposition of a solution on unwilling parties.” Like Hagel, she suggested that doing so meant “alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import"--an apparent reference to American Jews, making use of Jewish stereotypes seen as offensive in some contexts.
The 2009 report was released by the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP), on whose board Hagel serves. The president of USMEP, Henry Siegman, recently attacked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for questioning Hagel’s comments about the “Jewish lobby,” writing: “[T]here could be no better and conclusive evidence of the Israel Lobby’s power of intimidation of U.S. senators on the subject of Israel than these hearings themselves.”
Elements of the report seem to have found their way into President Obama’s policy. It recommends, for example, the appointment of a Special Envoy to pressure the two sides to achieve piece. Obama named former Sen. George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East in 2009; he resigned two years later after failing to move talks forward.
Another part of the report may have made its way into Obama’s controversial speech in Cairo in June 2009. The report declares: “A significant achievement – the creation and sustaining of a democratic Jewish State in the wake of the Holocaust – was accompanied by considerable and ongoing Palestinian suffering.” It fails to mention that Jews developed many of Israel’s institutions prior to the Holocaust, and that the UN also called for a Palestinian state alongside Israel in 1947, which the Arab world rejected.
Likewise, In his Cairo speech, Obama portrayed the creation of Israel as solely resulting from the Holocaust, and compared Jewish suffering in Europe to Palestinian suffering for lack of a state. That drew criticism from some Jewish leaders, including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who reported concerns even among Obama’s Jewish supporters.
Hagel’s call for U.S. troops to be deployed to the future border between Israel and a new Palestinian state contrasts sharply with his general reluctance to deploy troops abroad, and his repeated insistence on the limits of U.S. military power.
Hagel was not asked in his confirmation hearing about whether he still believes U.S. troops should be used as peacekeepers in what remains a dangerous and volatile part of the world.