Wednesday, 11 October 2017

That ‘Israel Lobby’ Controversy? History Has Proved Us Right - Stephen M. Walt


Ten years ago, John Mearsheimer and I published a controversial article and subsequent book examining the impact of the “Israel lobby” — that is, a loose coalition of pro-Israel individuals and organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Christians United for Israel, just to name a few. We argued that decades of unconditional U.S. support for Israel — the so-called “special relationship” — is not explained by U.S. strategic interests or by shared values, as is often claimed, but is due primarily to the political efforts and activities of the lobby.

The result, we also argued, does more harm than good to both the United States and Israel. For the United States, the “special relationship” undermines America’s standing in the Arab and Islamic worlds, has encouraged a more confrontational approach with Iran and Syria, and contributes significantly both to America’s terrorism problem and to needless and costly debacles like the 2003 invasion of Iraq. For Israel, unquestioning U.S. support for almost all its actions has allowed the decades-long subjugation of the Palestinians to continue unchecked, undermining the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and threatening Israel’s future as a democratic and/or Jewish state.

We made it clear that the lobby was not a monolith controlling every aspect of U.S. Middle East policy, but rather a collection of disparate groups and individuals united by the aim of defending Israel’s actions and deepening the special relationship. We explicitly rejected the idea that anything nefarious was going on, explaining that AIPAC and related organizations were simply part of a powerful interest group like the farm lobby or the National Rifle Association. Their efforts to influence U.S. policy are “as American as apple pie.” And we used the term “Israel lobby” to highlight that not all American Jews support these policies and that some key members of the lobby (such as Christian Zionists) aren’t Jewish. The book also emphasizes that none of these groups or individuals is solely responsible for the choices U.S. leaders make.

As the article and book predicted, a firestorm of criticism followed their publication, including more than a few accusations that we are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our aim was to elicit a debate that would help move America’s foreign policy in a wiser direction and increase Israel’s chances of achieving a durable, peaceful two-state solution with the Palestinians. By successfully squelching any criticism of Israel in almost any form, and by encouraging military action against Israel’s foes, the lobby — in our view — had led us away from both.

Unfortunately for Israel as well as the United States, the past 10 years provide ample evidence that our core argument is still correct. Nevertheless, shifts inside the pro-Israel community and in Israel itself may yet lead to positive shifts in U.S. Middle East policy and to a healthier relationship between the two countries.

There is little question the lobby remains a potent political force today. The “special relationship” is firmly intact: An increasingly prosperous Israel continues to receive billions of dollars in U.S. assistance, and it is still largely immune from criticism by top U.S. officials, members of Congress or contenders for public office. Being perceived as insufficiently “pro-Israel” can disqualify nominees for important government positions; one need look no further than Chuck Hagel’s contentious confirmation hearings — and the 178 times Israel came up — to see how crucial a role being pro-Israel plays in achieving political success in this country. People who criticize Israel too pointedly can still lose their jobs. Wealthy defenders of Israel such as Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban play outsize roles in American politics, especially on Israel-related issues. A number of hard-line individuals and groups in the lobby remain staunch opponents of the sensible 2016 nuclear deal with Iran and may eventually help convince President Trump or the Congress to overturn it.

The clearest illustration of the lobby’s enduring power, however, is the Obama administration’s failure to make any progress on settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were strong supporters of Israel, and both believe a two-state solution is, as Obama put it, “in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest and the world’s interest.” But even with backing from pro-peace, pro-Israel organizations such as J Street, their efforts to achieve “two states for two peoples” were rebuffed by Israel, working hand in hand with AIPAC and other hard-line groups. So instead of seriously pursuing peace, Israel expanded its settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories, making it more difficult than ever to create a viable Palestinian state.

Given AIPAC’s enduring influence in Congress and its unyielding opposition to any meaningful compromise with the Palestinians, Obama and Kerry ultimately could offer Israel only additional carrots (such as increased military aid) to try to win their cooperation. Like their predecessors, they could not put pressure on Israel to compromise by threatening to reduce U.S. support significantly. As a result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had little incentive to make a deal. So, the two-state solution, which the United States has long sought and Netanyahu has long opposed, is now further away than ever. This outcome is bad for the United States and for Israel.

Despite the lobby’s continuing influence, however, there is a more open discussion of Israel-related issues today than there was before we wrote our article and book. Together with long-term trends in the region and the United States, the ability to speak more openly about Israel is likely to diminish the lobby’s impact on U.S. foreign policy in the future.

For starters, despite joining forces with Netanyahu to oppose the Iran deal, AIPAC was unable to convince Congress to reject the agreement. This failure signaled a rare defeat for the lobbying group, and a triumph for J Street and other groups that had backed the deal.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/47957.htm

Washington is a Zionist occupied territory. The Israelis have the US political (banking, and mainstream media) system by the balls. They target the country (and other Western nations) in a large scale, and ongoing, intelligence driven operation designed to control key positions of power and information. Billions of dollars and thousands of individuals are involved that respectively wield money and occupy influential positions.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, October 11th, 2017.]

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