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Hagel defends his Iran, Israel record

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Chuck Hagel kept mum on most of the controversies assailing his rumored nomination for defense secretary, making an exception only to apologize for an anti-gay comment in 1998.

He granted his first post-nomination interview to a local paper, the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star.

He takes on some of the Israel related allegations, relating to his resistance to joining AIPAC-backed resolutions and letters and the particulars of his skepticism on Iran sanctions.

Not addressed however, is his use of the term "Jewish lobby" and his insistence that he was a senator for America, not for Israel, implying that interlocutors believed he should be otherwise.

Excerpt below the jump.

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But the fact is that there is "not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel."

"I didn’t sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn’t solve a problem," Hagel said.

Critics have hammered Hagel for not joining most of his Senate colleagues in signing on to a number of policy pronouncements that sometimes were sought by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington.

"How does that further the peace process in the Middle East?" Hagel asked. "What’s in Israel’s interest is to help Israel and the Palestinians find some peaceful way to live together."

As for allegations that he has been soft toward Iran’s apparent efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, Hagel pointed to his support for strong international sanctions, including those currently in place.

"I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone they don’t work and they just isolate the United States," he said.

"United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn’t work."

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