Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Israel Lobby

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history.

by: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on: 17th Mar, 06

Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.

Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the US, but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 per cent of its allocation to subsidise its own defence industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the US opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the US has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its Nato allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Washington also provides Israel with consistent diplomatic support. Since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. It blocks the efforts of Arab states to put Israel’s nuclear arsenal on the IAEA’s agenda. The US comes to the rescue in wartime and takes Israel’s side when negotiating peace. The Nixon administration protected it from the threat of Soviet intervention and resupplied it during the October War. Washington was deeply involved in the negotiations that ended that war, as well as in the lengthy ‘step-by-step’ process that followed, just as it played a key role in the negotiations that preceded and followed the 1993 Oslo Accords. In each case there was occasional friction between US and Israeli officials, but the US consistently supported the Israeli position. One American participant at Camp David in 2000 later said: ‘Far too often, we functioned . . . as Israel’s lawyer.’ Finally, the Bush administration’s ambition to transform the Middle East is at least partly aimed at improving Israel’s strategic situation.
(Full article)

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8 Comments:

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

Great find Gert, I read it all, very good article.

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger Gert said...

"Perhaps if you believed a little more strongly in your own ideas, you would be able to challenge me on content."

After your despicable post on Rachel Corrie, I no longer wish to discuss your feeble-minded ramblings anymore. It would be entirely pointless: we'd never agree on anything and I'd be completely wasting my time. My views on Israel-Palestine have been documented in considerable detail in many posts over the years (find these posts below): I'm not obliged to reiterate my opinions ad nauseam with just another hater of Palestinians. You're short-sighted and bigoted and I'm not quite sure where your zeal for starting yet another "t'wos the Palestinians wot did it! type of blog has come from.

Israel

Palestine

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

I read the 83-page version of this "working paper". It's very flawed. I agree AIPAC has too much power - because lobbies in general have too much power. Besides, more than being a pro-Israel lobby, it's a pro-right wing lobby (it acted against Rabin's government, for example).

Generally, the Israeli lobby is far from being an all encompassing hegemonic power.
I won't list all the study's flaws. They've been mentioned in the blogosphere enough.

 
At 1:00 AM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Hi Gert,

I am interested to hear your opinion on Walt & Mearsheimer's paper. Thanks.

Dave

 
At 3:50 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Hi David,

I'll assume we're talking about the same article: the one I reprinted over at my porch.

Here's my take on the whole affair.

To deny that there is such a thing as an "Israel lobby" would be a folly. Why wouldn't there be, considering there is a lobby, an interest-group, a pressure group for just about anything else, including without any doubt, a Palestinian lobby.

The reactions the paper got are living testimony that such a "group" (loose definition) exists.

Where the paper is in my view debatable is in the emphasis it places on the perceived overwhelming power of this lobby to influence American public opinion on all matters Israel and Foreign Policy in general. I believe this influence does exist, that's the purpose of a lobby after all, but not perhaps in the all encompassing sense conveyed in the piece.

And as one of the writers noted after the stormy reaction, the reaction the piece has received constitutes in itself evidence the lobby exists, Walt and Mearsheimer just happened to step on its long toes.

Let me jump over to your own post, which I feel contains a few contentious elements in itself.

"Much of the work coming out of universities gets buried in the shelves of academia rarely exposed to the popular masses.
[...]

[...]

[...]

Walt and Mearsheimer’s work contribute to this body of literature."

This is just plain folly: lumping together this article with known forgeries, Adolf Hitler and a Ku Klux clan member thereby implying... anti-Semitism. You in fact avoid calling Walt and Mearsheimer anti-Semites only by the narrowest of margins.

A bit further down, another gallery of known anti-Semites are paraded, again implying that the paper is essentially in line with Barruel, the Russian secret police, Ford and of course Hitler himself.

The endless stream of allegations of anti-Semitism levelled at anyone who dares write anything that might in anyway be construed as open or hidden criticism of Israel seems to constantly swell. I've experienced it many times in my town of birth, Antwerp. I've more recently experienced it when one anti-Palesinian blogger tried to tear my blog down with comment spam, until Blogger removed his own blog (not upon my request, I hasten to add). Another one has accused me of anti-Semitism, ad nauseam, until he forced me to simply no longer publish his repetitive comments.

Recently Israeli officials compared the BBC coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to "the worst Nazi propaganda". Come again?? It's unbelievable that the British Government didn't in the clearest of terms demand a written apology for this kind of slander. But at least these officials have no qualms: anti-Semites are Nazis. That is precisely why the allegation is so hurtful when used inaccurately or incorrectly. Anti-Semitism does of course exist, but I'm not part of that, nor are Walt and Mearsheimer or the BBC.

A Republican blogger with whom I cross words now and again has accused me of publishing my "last SIX POSTS slamming Israel". 6, no less! All in one run!

Finally, the "glaring hole" you mention near the bottom of your piece, appears to me more in your mind than in the paper. I've reread the footnote in question several times and to me it is unambiguous and cannot be misunderstood the way you seem to do.

Finally, I still haven't received an answer to my simple question: how do you see the future of Israel and Palestine? You've indicated you don't think a two-state solution is viable anymore. What do you believe to be viable instead?


No doubt I will now be chased by angry mob of pro-Israel bloggers and commenters (lol).

Best regards.

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger Gert said...

You can find further comment exchange over at David's blog.

 

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