The Israel lobby and the US foreign policy

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One reviewer wrote:

In 2006, John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote an essay in the London Review of Books on the Israel lobby. This generated a huge controversy, so they wrote this book to provide more evidence for their claim that the lobby harms US and Israeli interests.

Chapter 1 details the US state’s aid to Israel: $154 billion, mostly grants, 75% military. Israel is the largest recipient of US aid ($500 per person per year), even though Israel ranks 29th in the world by income.

Chapter 2 asks whether Israel is a strategic asset to the USA, and concludes that it may have been during the Cold War, but is now a liability. Chapter 3 asks whether the US state backs Israel because of their shared values, or because Israel is `for peace’, and answers no to both. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 examine the lobby’s members, activities, funding and its influence on policy-making in Washington and on the public through the media and academia.

Part II studies the lobby’s role in shaping recent US policy in the Middle East, and its effects. Chapter 7 examines the lobby’s hostility to the Palestinians and shows how it has neutered any hints of US support for the two-state solution. Chapter 8 looks at how the lobby, among others, urged the disastrous attack on Iraq. Chapter 9 examines the lobby’s hostility to negotiations with Syria and Chapter 10 looks at its threats to Iran.

Chapter 11 studies the US state’s unconditional support for Israel’s attack on Lebanon. War supporters lied that US policy `reflected the will of the American people’, but most Americans did not back the war, though the Clintons did.

Finally, in Chapter 12 the authors note that US interests are to keep the oil flowing, discourage the spread of WMD and reduce anti-US terrorism. Current US policies, promoted by the lobby, fuel anti-Americanism, increase the terrorist threat and encourage the spread of WMD.

These policies have not been in either US or Israeli interests. As the authors write, “Enabling Israel’s refusal to recognize the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations has not made Israel safer.” Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates wants any change in US Middle East policy. All uncritically support Israel.

The authors propose a better policy: withdraw US forces from the Middle East and press Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestine. They urge the USA to treat Israel as a normal state, reduce its aid dramatically, and oppose its settlement policy and apartheid `wall’. Mearsheimer and Walt make a very good case that the Israel lobby is both effective and counter-productive. Perhaps we need a similar study of the Israel lobby in Britain?

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