U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel told an Arab-American audience that his support for Israel was not “automatic.” Hagel (R-Neb.), who is considering a run for the presidency, told the Arab American Institute’s annual dinner that he believes Israel and the United States have a “special relationship,” but resented being told by a pro-Israel activist that if he wants backing from the pro-Israel community, his support for Israel should be “automatic.”

“First, I am an American senator,” Hagel told the AAI audience in Washington on Wednesday, to applause. He also said he would not sacrifice his friendships in the Arab world to please pro-Israel groups.

“No relationship should be founded on holding hostage other relationships,” Hagel said. “Why can’t I have that relationship” with Israel and its allies “not at the expense of my friends in the Arab world, in the Muslim world? Why must it be a choice? It is not a choice.”


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