In some of the most talked-about fireworks to come from defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked Hagel whether he thinks the state of Israel has “committed war crimes” — after confronting him with an old clip in which he seemed to agree with the characterization.
“The caller suggested the nation of Israel has committed war crimes. And your response to that was not to dispute that characterization but indeed to describe what he said as, quote, “Well I think that’s exactly right,” Cruz said to Hagel after the 2009 clip from Al Jazeera English played. “Do you think the nation of Israel has committed war crimes?”
“No I do not, senator. I’d want to look at the full context of the interview, but to answer your question, no,” Hagel said.
Cruz objected that the clip contained all the necessary context, then went on to say that “a suggestion that Israel has committed war crimes is particularly offensive, given that the Jewish people suffered under the most horrific war crimes in the Holocaust.”
“I would also suggest that for the secretary of defense or the prospective secretary of defense not to take issue with that claim is highly troubling.”
Next, Cruz went to a quote from a Senate floor speech Hagel gave in 2006 where he ”referred to Israel’s military campaign against the terrorist group Hezbollah as a, quote, ‘sickening slaughter.’”
Hagel again said he’d want the full context of the speech, which Slate noted was that “The sickening slaughter on both sides must end.”
Cruz then went to another clip from Al Jazeera program when a host read a reader email suggesting the U.S. had been as the world’s bully. Hagel didn’t refute the characterization, calling it a relevant observation, but told Cruz he didn’t say he agreed with it.
“To go on Al Jazeera, a foreign network broadcasting propaganda to nations that our hostile to us, and to explicitly agree with a characterization of the United States as the world’s bully, I would suggest is not the conduct one would expect of a secretary of defense,” Cruz said.