The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

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The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is a book by John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relation at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Univeristy, published in late August 2007. It was a New York Times Best Seller. The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy was ranked 12th place on the non-fiction list for a total of one week.

The Lobby[edit]

The paper has the following to say about what it calls "The Lobby":

  • It is not meant to suggest that 'the lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues.
  • The Lobby also includes prominent Christian evangelicals like Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, as well as Dick Armey and Tom DeLay...all of whom believe Israel's rebirth is the fufillment of biblical prophecy and support its expansionist agenda; to do otherwise, they believe, would be contrary to God's will."
  • Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them.
  • "Many of the ovkey organizations in the Lobby, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organzations, are run by hardliners who generally support the Likud Party's expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo Peace Process.
  • There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy; the Lobby's activities are not a conspiracy... For the most part the individuals and groups in it are only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better.
  • Although neo-conservative and other Lobby leaders were eager to invade Iraq, the broader American Jewish Community was not."
  • What is needed is a candid discussion of the Lobby's influence and a more open debate about US interests in this vital region. Israel's well-being is one of those interests, but its continued occupation of the West Bank and its broader regional agenda are not.
  • The core of the Lobby is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests.
  • "The Lobby doesn’t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide."
  • The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. (this is a reference to Campus Watch)
  • Were it not for the Lobby’s ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today.
  • The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress."
  • The Lobby also has significant leverage over the Executive branch. That power derives in part from the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections.
  • Not surprisingly, American Jewish leaders often consult with Israeli officials, so that the former can maximize their influence in the United States.
  • Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this campaign to eliminate criticism of Israel from college campuses is the effort by Jewish groups to push Congress to establish mechanisms that monitor what professors say about Israel." (this is a reference to the controversial HR 3077/HR 509 Bill in the U.S. Congress)

Strategic Asset[edit]

  • Backing Israel is not cheap, however, and it complicated America's relations with the Arab World.
  • The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden.
  • In fact, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.
  • More important, saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards; the US has a terrorism problem because it is so closely aligned with Israel, not the other way around.
  • As for the so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel.
  • A final reason to question Israel's strategic value is that it does not behave like a loyal ally.

The Moral Case for Support[edit]

  • There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel's continued existence, but that is not in jeopardy.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better equipped and better led forces during (list of wars from 1948-1967) - all of this before large-scale US aid began flowing.
  • Today Israel is the strongest military power in the Middle East. Its conventional forces are far superior to those of its neighbors and it is the only state in the region with nuclear weapons.
  • That Israel is a fellow democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships cannot account for the current level of aid.
  • The country's creation was undoubtedly an appropriate response to the long record of crimes against Jews but it also brought about fresh crimes against a largely innocent third party: the Palestinians.
  • Yet on this ground (seeking peace), Israel's record is not distinguishable from that of its opponents.
  • ...Yitzhak Shamir, once a terrorist and later prime minister of Israel declared that 'neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat.'

Quotes about[edit]

  • On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.
    Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet. The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.
    First, the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war. Second, President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed, the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.
  • Does all this have relevance today? Of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that there is little that Israel could do that would earn the opprobrium of the U.S. Congress or retaliation from the White House, whether it’s building illegal settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers.

External links[edit]