The Israel Lobby: The Book

The Parts, Chapters, and Sections of
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

  1. Introduction

    • In.1. The lobby and U.S. Middle East policy

    • In.2. The lobby’s modus operandi

    • In.3. Why is it so hard to talk about the Israel lobby?

    • In.4. How we make our case [Summary/Overview]

    • In.5. Those we learned from

    • In.6. A note on our sources

    • In.7. Conclusion

  2. The United States, Israel, and the Lobby

    1. The Great Benefactor

      • 1.1 Economic Aid

      • 1.2 Military Assistance

      • 1.3 Diplomatic Protection and Wartime Support

      • 1.4 Conclusion

    2. Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?

      • 2.1 Helping Contain the Soviet Bear

      • 2.2 From the Cold War to 9/11

      • 2.3 “Partners Against Terror”: The New Rationale

      • 2.4 Confronting Rogue States

      • 2.5 A Dubious Ally

      • 2.6 Conclusion

    3. A Dwindling Moral Case

      • 3.1 Backing the Underdog

      • 3.2 Aiding a Fellow Democracy

      • 3.3 Compensation for Past Crimes

      • 3.4 “Virtuous Israelis” versus “Evil Arabs”

      • 3.5 Camp David Myths

      • 3.6 Supporting Israel is God’s Will

      • 3.7 What Do the American People Want?

      • 3.8 Conclusion

    4. What is the “Israel Lobby”?

      • 4.1 Defining the Lobby

      • 4.2 The Role of American Jewry

      • 4.3 Unity In Diversity and the Norm Against Dissent

      • 4.4 The Lobby Moves Right

      • 4.5 The Role of the Neoconservatives

      • 4.6 The Christian Zionists

      • 4.7 The Lobby’s Source of Power

      • 4.8 The (Modest) Impact of Oil

      • 4.9 The Question of “Dual Loyalty”

      • 4.10 Conclusion

    5. Guiding the Policy Process

      • 5.1 Holding Sway on Capitol Hill

      • 5.2 The Making of Pro-Israeli Presidents

      • 5.3 Keeping the Administration in Line

      • 5.4 Conclusion

    6. Dominating Public Discourse

      • 6.1 The Media Is the Message

      • 6.2 Think Tanks That Think One Way

      • 6.3 Policing Academia

      • 6.4 Objectionable Tactics

      • 6.5 The “New Anti-Semitism”

      • 6.6 The Great Silencer

      • 6.7 Conclusion

  3. The Lobby in Action

    1. The Lobby Versus the Palestinians

      • 7.1 The Lobby Humiliates Bush

      • 7.2 “The More Things Change ...”

      • 7.3 Unilateralism In, Road Map Out

      • 7.4 Arafat Dies and Nothing Changes

      • 7.5 Rice Gets “Powellized”

      • 7.6 Conclusion

    2. Iraq and Dreams of Transforming the Middle East

      • 8.1 Israel and the Iraq War

      • 8.2 The Lobby and the Iraq War

      • 8.3 Selling the War to a Skeptical America

      • 8.4 Fixing the Intelligence on Iraq

      • 8.5 Was Iraq a War For Oil?

      • 8.6 Dreams of Regional Trasnformation

      • 8.7 The Lobby’s Role in Remaking the Middle East

      • 8.8 Conclusion

    3. Taking Aim at Syria

      • 9.1 The Syrian Threat

      • 9.2 Israel and the Golan Heights

      • 9.3 Jerusalem and Damascus after September 11

      • 9.4 The Lobby and Damascus after 9/11

      • 9.5 Why Did Bush Waver?

      • 9.6 Conclusion

    4. Iran in the Crosshairs

      • 10.1 Confrontation Or Conciliation?

      • 10.2 The Clinton Administration and Dual Containment

      • 10.3 The Bush Administration and Regime Change

      • 10.4 Rising To Israel’s Defense

      • 10.5 The Alternatives

      • 10.6 The Least Bad Option

      • 10.7 Conclusion

    5. The Lobby and the Second Lebanon War

      • 11.1 Prewar Planning

      • 11.2 “The Mighty Edifice of Support”

      • 11.3 Strategic Folly

      • 11.4 Damage to U.S. Interests

      • 11.5 Breaking the Laws of War

      • 11.6 The Lobby in Overdrive

      • 11.7 The American Public and Lebanon

      • 11.8 Doing America’s Bidding?

      • 11.9 Conclusion

  4. Conclusion: What is to be Done?

[Here are some excerpts from
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt.

Section and paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.
The labeling of paragraphs in some sections (like §In.4)
is not strictly “one-up” numerical,
but rather attempts to reflect the content of each paragraph.]


Section In.4
How We Make Our Case

To make our case, we have to accomplish three tasks.
Specifically, we have to convince readers that
  1. the United States provides Israel with
    extraordinary material aid and diplomatic support,

  2. the lobby is the principal reason for that support, and

  3. this uncritical and unconditional relationship
    is not in the American national interest.

Chapter 1 (“The Great Benefactor”) addresses the first issue directly,
by describing the economic and military aid
that the United States gives to Israel,
as well as the diplomatic backing
that Washington has provided in peace and in war.
Subsequent chapters also discuss
the different elements of U.S. Middle East policy
that have been designed in whole or in part
to benefit Israel vis-à-vis its principal rivals.

Chapters 2 and 3 assess the main arguments that are usually invoked
to justify or explain
the exceptional amount of support that Israel receives from the United States.
This critical assessment is necessary for methodological reasons:
to properly assess the impact of the Israel lobby,
we have to examine other possible explanations that might account for
the “special relationship” that now exists between the two countries.

In Chapter 2 (“Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?”),
we examine the familiar argument that
Israel deserves lavish support
because it is a valuable strategic asset.
We show that although Israel may have been an asset during the Cold War,
it is now increasingly a strategic liability.
Backing Israel so strongly helps fuel America’s terrorism problem
and makes it harder for the United States
to address the other problems it faces in the Middle East.
Unconditional support for Israel also
complicates U.S. relations with a number of other countries around the world,
thereby imposing additional costs on the United States.
Yet even though the costs of backing Israel have risen
while the benefits have declined,
American support continues to increase.
This situation suggests that something other than strategic imperatives
is at work.

Chapter 3 (“A Dwindling Moral Case”> examines the different moral rationales
that Israelis and their American supporters often use
to explain U.S. support for the Jewish state.
In particular, we consider the claim that the United States backs Israel
because of shared “democratic values,”
because Israel is a weak and vulnerable David facing a powerful Arab Goliath,
because its past and present conduct
is more ethical than its adversaries’ behavior, or
because it has always sought peace while its neighbors always chose war.
This assessment is necessary
not because we have any animus toward Israel
or because we think its conduct is worse than that of other states,
but because these essentially moral claims are so frequently used
to explain why the United States should give Israel exceptional levels of aid.
We conclude that while there is a strong moral case for Israel’s existence,
the moral case for giving it such generous and largely unconditional support
is not compelling.
Once again,
this juxtaposition of a dwindling moral case
and ever-increasing U.S. backing
suggests that something else must be at work.

Having established that neither strategic interests nor moral rationales
can fully explain U.S. support for Israel,
we turn our attention to that “something else.”
Chapter 4 (“What is the ‘Israel Lobby’?”)
identifies the lobby’s different components
and describes how this loose coalition has evolved.
We stress that it is not a single unified movement,
that its different elements sometimes disagree on certain issues,
and that it includes both Jews and non-Jews,
including the so-called Christian Zionists.
We also show how some of the most important organizations in the lobby
have drifted rightward over time
and are increasingly unrepresentative of
the larger populations on whose behalf they often claim to speak.

This chapter also considers whether
Arab-American groups, the so-called oil lobby, or wealthy Arab oil producers
are either a significant counterweight to the Israel lobby
or even the real driving forces behind U.S. Middle East policy.
Many people seem to believe, for example,
that the invasion of Iraq was mostly about oil and
that corporate oil interests were the primary movers
behind the U.S. decision to attack that country.
This is not the case:
although access to oil is obviously an important U.S. interest,
there are good reasons why
Arab-Americans, oil companies, and the Saudi royal family
wield far less influence on U.S. foreign policy than the Israel lobby does.

In Chapter 5 (“Guiding the Policy Process”)
and Chapter 6 (“Dominating Public Discourse”),
we describe the different strategies that groups in the lobby use
in order to advance Israel’s interests in the United States.
In addition to direct lobbying on Capitol Hill,
the lobby rewards or punishes politicians who are sympathetic to their views.
Equally important, the lobby has gone to considerable lengths to shape public discourse about Israel
by putting pressure on the media and academia
and by establishing a tangible presence in
influential foreign policy think tanks.
Efforts to shape public perceptions often include
charging critics of Israel with anti-Semitism,
a tactic designed to discredit and marginalize
anyone who challenges the current relationship.

These tasks accomplished,
Part II traces the lobby’s role in shaping recent U.S. Middle East policy.
Our argument, it should be emphasized,
is not that the lobby is the only factor
that influences U.S. decision making in these issues.
It is not omnipotent, so it does not get its way on every issue.
But it is very effective
in shaping U.S. policy toward Israel and the surrounding region
in ways that are intended to benefit Israel—
and believed also to benefit the United States.
Unfortunately, the policies it has successfully encouraged
have actually done considerable harm to U.S. interests
and have been harmful to Israel as well.

Following a brief introduction to set the stage,
Chapter 7 (“The Lobby Versus the Palestinians”) shows how
the United States has consistently backed
Israel’s efforts to quell or limit the Palestinians’ national aspirations.
Even when American presidents put pressure on Israel to make concessions
or try to distance the United States from Israel’s policies—
as President George W. Bush has attempted to do
on several occasions since September 11—
the lobby intervenes and brings them back into line.
The result has been
  • a worsening image for the United States,

  • continued suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, and

  • a growing radicalization among the Palestinians.
None of these trends is in America’s or Israel’s interest.

In Chapter 8 (“Iraq and Dreams of Transforming the Middle East”),
we show how
the lobby—and especially the neoconservatives within it—
was the principal driving force
behind the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
We emphasize that the lobby did not cause the war by itself.
The September 11 attacks
had a profound impact on the Bush administration’s foreign policy
and the decision to topple Saddam Hussein.
But absent the lobby’s influence,
there almost certainly would not have been a war.
The lobby was a necessary but not sufficient condition
for a war that is a strategic disaster for the United States
and a boon for Iran, Israel’s serious regional adversary.

Chapter 9 (“Taking Aim at Syria”)
describes the evolution of America’s difficult relationship
with the Assad regime in Syria.
We document how the lobby has pushed Washington
to adopt confrontational policies toward Syria
(including occasional threats of regime change)
when doing so was what the Israeli government wanted.
The United States and Syria would not be allies
if key groups in the lobby were less influential,
but the United States would have taken a much less confrontational approach
and might even be cooperating with Syria in a number of limited but useful ways.
Indeed, absent the lobby,
there might already be a peace treaty between Israel and Syria,
and Damascus might not be backing Hezbollah in Lebanon,
which would be good for both Washington and Jerusalem.

In Chapter 10 (“Iran in the Crosshairs”),
we trace the lobby’s role in U.S. policy toward Iran.
Washington and Tehran have had difficult relations
since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah,
and Israel has come to see Iran as its most serious adversary,
in light of its nuclear ambitions and its support for groups like Hezbollah.
Israel and the lobby
have repeatedly pushed the United States to go after Iran
and have acted to derail several earlier opportunities for détente.
The result, unfortunately, is that
Iran’s nuclear ambitions have increased
and more extreme elements (such as current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad)
have come to power,
making a difficult situation worse.

Lebanon is the subject of Chapter 11 (“The Lobby and the Second Lebanon War”),
and the pattern is much the same.
We argue that
Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s unjustified provocation in the summer of 2006
was both strategically foolish and morally wrong,
yet the lobby’s influence made it hard for U.S. officials
to do anything except strongly back Israel.
This case offers yet another classic illustration of the lobby’s influence on American and Israeli interests:
by making it hard for U.S. policy makers to step back and give their Israeli counterparts honest and critical advice,
the lobby facilitated a policy that
  • further tarnished America’s image,

  • weakened the democratically elected regime in Beirut, and

  • strengthened Hezbollah.

The final chapter (“What Is to Be Done?”)
explores how this unfortunate situation might be improved.
We begin by identifying America’s core Middle East interests
and then sketch the essential principles of a strategy—
which we term offshore balancing
that could defend these interests more effectively.
We do not call for abandoning the U.S. commitment to Israel—
indeed, we explicitly endorse coming to Israel’s aid
if its survival were ever in jeopardy.
But we argue that
it is time to treat Israel like a normal country
and to make U.S. aid conditional on
  • an end to the occupation and

  • Israel’s willingness to conform its policies to American interests.
Accomplishing this shift requires
addressing the political power of the lobby and its current policy agenda,
and we offer several suggestions for
how the power of the lobby might be modified
to make its influence more beneficial
for the United States and Israel alike.

What Is To Be Done?

In Part I of this book, we argued that
strategic and moral considerations could neither explain nor justify
the current level of U.S. support for Israel.

Nor could they account for the largely unconditional nature of that support,
or for America’s willingness to conduct its foreign policy
in ways that are intended to safeguard Israel.
The main explanation for this anomalous situation, we suggested, is
the influence of the Israel lobby.
Like other special interest groups,
the individuals and organizations that make up the lobby
engage in a number of legitimate political activities,
in their case intended to push U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.
Some parts of the lobby also employ more objectionable tactics,
such as attempting to silence or smear
anyone who challenges the lobby’s role or criticizes Israel’s actions.
Although the lobby does not get everything it wants,
it has been remarkably successful in achieving its basic aims.

In Part II, we traced the lobby’s impact on U.S. Middle East policy
and argued that its influence
has been unintentionally harmful to the United States and Israel alike.
Washington’s reflexive support for Israel has
fueled anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world and
undermined the U.S. image in many other countries as well.
The lobby has made it difficult for U.S. leaders to pressure Israel,
thereby prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This situation gives Islamic terrorists a powerful recruiting tool
and contributes to the growth of Islamic radicalism.
Turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear programs and human rights abuses
has made the United States look hypocritical
when it criticizes other countries on these grounds,
and it has undermined
American efforts to encourage political reform
throughout the Arab and Islamic world.

The lobby’s influence helped lead the United States into a disastrous war in Iraq
and has hamstrung efforts to deal with Syria and Iran.
It also encouraged the United States to back
Israel’s ill-conceived assault on Lebanon, a campaign that
strengthened Hezbollah,
drove Syria and Iran closer together, and
further tarnished America’s global image.
The lobby bears considerable, though not complete, responsibility
for each of these developments,
and none of them was good for the United States.
The bottom line is hard to escape:
although America’s problems in the Middle East would not disappear
if the lobby were less influential,
U.S. leaders would find it easier to explore alternative approaches
and be more likely to adopt policies more in line with American interests.

[C.0.4 is omitted.]

What is to be done?
To reverse the damage that recent U.S. policies have inflicted,
a new strategy is clearly needed.
But developing and implementing a different approach means
finding ways to address the power of the lobby.
Charting a fresh course will therefore require
  1. Identifying U.S. interests in the Middle East [§C.1]

  2. Outlining a strategy to protect those interests [§C.2]

  3. Developing a new relationship with Israel [§C.3]

  4. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution [§C.4]

  5. Transforming the lobby into a constructive force [§C.5]

Let us consider each of these steps.

Section C.1
What Are U.S. Interests?


The overriding goal of U.S. foreign policy
is to
ensure the safety and prosperity of the American people.

In pursuit of that end,
the United States has always considered
the security of the Western hemisphere to be of paramount importance.
In recent decades,
policy makers have also considered three other regions of the world
to contain strategic interests important enough to fight and die for:
Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf.
These regions are important because they contain
either concentrations of power or critical natural resources,
and who controls them
has profound effects on the global balance of power.

The United States has three distinct interests in the Middle East.

Because this region contains a large percentage of global energy supplies,
the most important interest is
maintaining access to the oil and natural gas located in the Persian Gulf.
This objective does not require the United States to control the region itself;
it merely needs to ensure that
no other country
is in a position to keep Middle East oil from reaching the world market.
To do this, the United States has long sought
to prevent any local power from establishing hegemony in the Gulf and
to deter outside powers from establishing control of the region.

A second strategic interest is
discouraging Middle Eastern states
from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

As discussed in Section 2.4,
the risk here is not the remote possibility of
deliberate nuclear attack,
nuclear blackmail, or
a deliberate “nuclear handoff” to terrorists,
because such threats are not credible
in light of America’s own nuclear deterrent.
Rather, the United States opposes the spread of WMD in the region
because it would make it more difficult to project power into the region
and thus might complicate U.S. efforts to keep Middle East oil flowing.
WMD proliferation also increases the dangers
of accidental or unauthorized nuclear use.
Given the potential for instability in some countries in the area,
it also raises the risk that
nuclear weapons or other WMD might fall into the wrong hands
in the event of a coup or revolt,
or be stolen by terrorists from poorly guarded facilities.
For all these reasons,
inhibiting the spread of WMD in the region is an important U.S. objective.

Third, the United States has an obvious interest in
reducing anti-American terrorism.
This goal requires
dismantling existing terrorist networks that threaten the United States
and preventing new terror groups from emerging.
Both objectives are furthered by
cooperating extensively and effectively with countries in the region,
mostly in terms of intelligence sharing and other law enforcement activities.
It is also imperative that the United States take all feasible steps
to prevent groups like al Qaeda from gaining access to any form of WMD.
Terrorists armed with WMD
would be more difficult to deter than
states with WMD,
and they are likely to use them against America or its allies.
Encouraging political reform and greater democratic participation
can assist this goal as well—
which in turn requires good relations with key regional powers—
although the United States should be wary of rapid transformation
and certainly
should not try to spread democracy at the point of a gun.

Although we believe that America should support Israel’s existence,
Israel’s security is ultimately
not of critical strategic importance to the United States.
In the event that Israel was conquered—
which is extremely unlikely
given its considerable military power and its robust nuclear deterrence—
neither America’s territorial integrity, its military power,
its economic prosperity, nor its core political values
would be jeopardized.
By contrast,
if oil exports from the Persian Gulf oil were significantly reduced,
the effects on America’s well-being would be profound.

The United States does not support Israel’s existence
because it makes Americans more secure, but rather
because Americans recognize the long history of Jewish suffering
and believe that it is desirable for the Jewish people to have their own state.
As we have noted repeatedly,
there is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence,
and we believe

the United States
should remain committed to coming to Israel’s aid
if its survival were in jeopardy.

But Americans should do this
because they think it is morally appropriate,
not because it is vital to their own security.

Section C.2
A Different Strategy: The Case for “Offshore Balancing”

Since 9/11, the United States has pursued
a policy of regional transformation in the Middle East.
In pursuit of this remarkably ambitious strategy,
the Bush administration has kept large numbers of American troops in the region,
something the United States never did during the Cold War.
This misguided policy has helped fuel America’s terrorism problem
and led to the ongoing debacle in Iraq.
It has also done serious damage to the United States’ reputation around the world,
including its relationship with European and Arab allies.

America would be best served if it abandoned regional transformation
and adopted a strategy of offshore balancing.
This strategy would be less ambitious in scope
but much more effective at protecting U.S. interests in the Middle East.
In this strategy, the United States would

deploy its military power—especially its ground forces—abroad
only when there are direct threats to vital U.S. interests

only when local actors cannot handle these threats on their own.

Washington would remain diplomatically engaged under this approach,
relying on air and naval power
to signal its continued commitment to the region and
to provide the capacity to respond quickly to unexpected threats.
It would also maintain a robust intervention capability,
along the lines of the original Rapid Deployment Force,
whose units were stationed over the horizon or in the United States [CONUS].

Offshore balancing is America’s traditional grand strategy
was a key component of U.S. Middle East policy for much of the Cold War.
The United States did not try to garrison the region
and never attempted to transform it along democratic lines.
it sought to maintain a regional balance of power
by backing various local allies and
by developing the capacity to intervene directly
if the local balance of power broke down.
The United States built the Rapid Deployment Force
to deter or defeat a Soviet attempt to seize the oil-rich Persian Gulf,
and Washington tilted toward Iraq in the 1980s
to help contain revolutionary Iran.
But when Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait in 1990
threatened to tilt the local balance of power in Saddam’s favor,
the United States assembled a multinational coalition
and sent a large army to smash Saddam’s military machine and liberate Kuwait.

Offshore balancing is the right strategy for at least three reasons.

it markedly reduces, but does not eliminate,
the chances that the United States will get involved in
bloody and costly wars like Iraq.

Not only does this strategy
categorically reject using military force to reshape the Middle East,
it also recognizes that
the United States does not need to control this vitally important region;
it merely needs to ensure that no other country does.

Toward that end, the strategy calls for
husbanding U.S. resources and relying primarily on
local allies to contain their dangerous neighbors.
As an offshore balancer,
the United States intervenes only as a matter of last resort.
And when it does,
it finishes the job as quickly as possible and then moves back offshore.

offshore balancing will ameliorate America’s terrorism problem.
One of the key lessons of the twentieth century is that
nationalism and other forms of local identity
remain intensely powerful political forces,
and foreign occupiers invariably generate fierce resistances.
[Walt cites Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.]
By keeping U.S. military forces over the horizon until they are needed,
offshore balancing minimizes the resentment created
when American troops are permanently stationed on Arab soil.
This resentment often manifests itself in terrorism or even
large-scale insurgencies directed at the United States.

Third, unlike regional transformation,
offshore balancing gives states like Iran and Syria
less reason to worry about an American attack
and thus less reason to acquire WMD.

The need to deter U.S. intervention
is one reason Iran has sought a nuclear capability,
and convincing Tehran to reverse course will require Washington to
address Iran’s legitimate security concerns and to
refrain from issuing overt threats.
The United States cannot afford to disengage completely from the Middle East,
but a strategy of offshore balancing
will make American involvement less threatening to states in the region
and might even encourage some of our current adversaries to seek our help.
Instead of lumping potential foes together in an “axis of evil”
and encouraging them to join forces against us,
offshore balancing facilitates a strategy of divide and conquer.
Because U.S. interests are served so long as
no hostile state or coalition
is able to threaten a vital region such as the Persian Gulf,
this basic approach makes good strategic sense.

In effect, a strategy of offshore balancing would
reverse virtually all of America’s current regional policies.
Instead of continuing the fruitless effort
to transform Iraq into a multiethnic and multisectarian democracy,
the United States would withdraw as soon as possible and focus on
containing the regional consequences of its foolhardy decision to invade.
Instead of trying to topple the Assad regime in Syria,
the United States would push Israel to give up the Golan Heights
in exchange for a formal peace treaty.
Not only would this bring Syria into the ranks of Arab countries
that have formally accepted Israel’s existence,
but it would isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon,
drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, and
reduce Iran’s ability to aid Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.
It would also encourage Damascus
to help the United States deal with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Finally, instead of threatening Iran with preventive war—
an approach that fuels Iran’s desire for WMD
and allows President Ahmadinejad to use nationalist sentiment
to deflect popular discontent—
the United States would try to
cut a deal on Iran’s nuclear ambitions
and put its hard-line leaders on the defensive.
This approach would not eliminate
all of the problems that the United States currently faces in the region,
but it would be better for America and Israel
than the policies endorsed by most groups in the lobby.
We have tried their approach, and its failure is plain to see.

Section C.3
A New Relationship: Treat Israel as a Normal State

But what about Israel?
What does offshore balancing say about U.S. relations with Israel,
especially since it is of little strategic value for America?

The Jewish state is sixty years old,
and its existence is now recognized and accepted
by almost all countries in the world.
Its economy is developing rapidly and most Israelis are increasingly prosperous,
even though its political system currently seems
paralyzed by internal divisions,
troubled by corruption,
and rocked by repeated scandals.
It is time for the United States to treat Israel not as a special case
but as a normal state,
and to deal with it much as it deals with any other country.
In other words,
the United States should support Israel’s continued existence—
just as it supports the existence of France, Thailand, or Mexico—
and Washington should be prepared to intervene
if Israel’ survival were ever threatened.

Treating Israel as a normal state means

no longer
pretending that
Israel’s and America’s interests are identical
, or
acting as if Israel deserves steadfast U.S. support
no matter what it does.

When Israel acts in ways that the United States deems desirable,
it should have American backing.
When it does not, Israel should expect to face U.S. opposition,
just as other states do.
It also implies that the United States should gradually wean Israel
from the economic and military aid that it currently provides.
Israel is now an advanced economy, and it will become even more so
once it achieves full peace with its neighbors
and reaches a final settlement with the Palestinians.

The United States would continue to trade with Israel, of course,
and American and Israeli investors would undoubtedly continue
to finance enterprises in each other’s countries.
Cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges
would continue as they do today,
and for the same reasons that the United States
has extensive social connections with many other countries.
The special personal and family connections between Israelis and Americans
would remain intact as well.
U.S. arms manufacturers would still be able to sell arms to Israel
(as they do to other states in the region, subject to the relevant U.S. laws),
and Washington and Jerusalem
would undoubtedly share intelligence information
and maintain other mutually beneficial forms of security cooperation.
But there is little reason to continue
the handouts that American taxpayers have provided since the early 1970s,
especially when there are many countries that have greater needs.
U.S. aid is indirectly subsidizing
activities that are not in its national interest.
Although the United States may have to offer some additional support
in order to persuade Israel to grant the Palestinians a viable state,
treating Israel as a normal country
should eventually lead to a dramatic reduction in U.S. assistance.

Section C.4
Ending the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Above all,
the United States should use its considerable leverage
to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end.

As the bipartisan Iraq Study Group noted in December 2006,
“There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States
to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts:
Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment
to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine ...
The United States does its ally Israel no favors
in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

U.S. leaders have been engaged in virtually every aspect of the peace process,
but they have never used the full leverage at their disposal
to push the process forward.

While reaffirming
its commitment to Israel’s security within its pre-1967 borders,
the United States should make it clear that
it is dead set against Israel’s expansionist settlements policy—
including the land-grabbing “security fence”—
and that
it believes this policy is not in America’s or Israel’s long-term interests.

[C.4.3 (“The Deal”)]
This approach means
abandoning the Bush administration’s moribund Road Map
(which emphasizes a time table for negotiations) and instead
laying out America’s own vision for what a just peace would entail.
In particular,

the United States should make it clear that
Israel must withdraw from
almost all of the territories it occupied in June 1967

in exchange for
a full peace.
Israel and the Palestinians will also have to reach agreement on
the rights of displaced Palestinians
to return to the lands they fled [sic] in 1948.
Allowing this “right” to be exercised in full
would threaten Israel’s identity and is clearly infeasible.
But the basic principle is both
an essential issue of justice and
an issue on which the Palestinians will not compromise
save in the context of a final settlement.
To resolve this dilemma,
Israel will have to acknowledge a “right” of return—
in effect acknowledging that
Israel’s creation involved the violation of Palestinian rights—
and the Palestinians will have to agree to
renounce this right in perpetuity
in exchange for an appropriate level of compensation.

The United States and the European Union could organize and finance
a generous program of reconstruction aid to compensate the Palestinians,
which would terminate all claims for their actual return into
what is now and will forever remain Israeli territory.

It is sometimes said that Israel cannot make such concessions,
because it is small and vulnerable and would be even more so
were it to grant the Palestinians a viable state.
But this familiar argument ignores
how much Israel’s strategic situation has changed since its early years
(when, we should not forget,
it still managed to defeat its various adversaries,
and with little assistance from the United States).
Israel is far more secure now than it was
when it first occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in June 1967.
Israel’s defense spending in that year was less than half
the combined defense expenditures of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria;
today, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan,
Iraq is occupied by the United States
and has little or no military power of its own,
and Israel’s defense budget is greater than Iran and Syria’s combined.
Israel’s adversaries used to get substantial military aid from the Soviet Union; today, that superpower is gone
and Israel’s ties to the United States have grown.
Israel had no usable nuclear weapons in 1967;
today it has perhaps two hundred.

Within the 1967 borders, in short,
Israel is more secure than it has ever been,
and it is its continued presence in the Occupied Territories—
as well as the Golan Heights—
that creates a serious security problem for Israel,
primarily in the form of terrorist violence.

Israel’s supporters in the United States are doing it no favors
by pressing Washington to continue subsidizing the occupation.

Some Israelis and Americans argue that the converse is true,
that Israel’s security situation is more perilous today
than at any time since 1967.
In particular, they argue that
Islamic groups like Hamas and Hezbollah
remain dedicated to Israel’s destruction
and are strongly backed by Syria and Iran,
thereby creating a potentially lethal threat.
There are two obvious responses to this line of argument.
First, this view overstates the threat that terrorism imposes to Israel—
it is clearly a problem but not an existential threat—
and, as discussed in Chapters 2 and 10,
it also exaggerates the threat that Iranian WMD represent.
Second, and more important,
ending the occupation would also help divide and defuse
the coalition of forces that doomsayers now see arrayed against Israel.

Syria has made it clear it will make peace if it regains the Golan,
and once it has its land back,
it has promised to cut off support for Hezbollah and Hamas.
Ending the occupation and helping create a viable Palestinian state
will deprive Iran of local sympathizers
and help turn groups like Hamas or Islamic Jihad
from heroic defenders of a national cause
into outdated obstacles to progress and prosperity.

The United States has ample justification for pressuring Israel to cut this deal:
so long as it is bankrolling Israel,
and jeopardizing its own security by doing so,
it is entitled to say what it is willing to support
and what it is going to oppose.
The Clinton parameters, laid out in December 2000
identify the basic outlines of a settlement
and offer the best baseline for new negotiations,
and President Bush and his successor
should make it clear that this is our starting point.
If a final status agreement can be reached,
then the United States and the European Union
should be willing to subsidize the news arrangements generously
and help Israeli and Palestinian leaders deal with
the rejectionists on both sides.

Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
would contribute to America’s national interests in another way.
Despite its military prowess and geographic location,
Israel’s strategic value to the United States is reduced by
its own pariah status within the region.
So long as the Palestinians are denied a state,
Israel’s isolation prevents it from participating
whenever the United States is trying to assemble a “coalition of the willing.”
If the conflict were resolved
and normal relations developed between Israel and the Arab world—
as the current Arab League peace proposal envisions—
then the United States would not pay a diplomatic price for backing Israel,
and Israel would be able to join forces
with the United States and its Arab allies
when serious regional threats emerged.
If the conflict were resolved, in short,
Israel might become the sort of strategic asset
that its supporters often claim it is.


If Israel remains unwilling to grant the Palestinians a viable state—
or if it tries to impose an unjust solution unilaterally—
the United States should curtail its economic and military support.

It should do so not because it bears Israel any ill will
but because it recognizes that
the occupation is bad for the United States
and contrary to America’s political values.
Consistent with the strategy of offshore balancing,
the United States would base its actions on its own self-interest
rather than adhere to a blind allegiance to an uncooperative partner.
In effect,

the United States should give Israel a choice:
end its self-defeating occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
and remain a close U.S. ally,

remain a colonial power on its own.

This step is not as radical as it might sound:
the United States would simply be dealing with Israel
the same way that it has dealt with other colonial democracies in the past.
For example,
the United States pushed Britain and France
to give up their colonial empires in the early years of the Cold War
and forced them (and Israel) to withdraw from Egyptian territory
following the 1956 Suez War.
The United States has also played hardball with plenty of other countries—
including close allies like Japan, Germany, and South Korea—
when it was in its interest to do so.
As discussed in Chapter 7, public opinion polls confirm that
the American people would support
a president who took a harder line toward Israel,
if doing so were necessary to achieve a just and enduring peace.

This policy would undoubtedly be anathema to most—
though perhaps not all—elements in the lobby
and it would probably anger some other Americans as well.
Moreover, present circumstances are hardly promising,
given the violent divisions within the Palestinian community,
the political weakness of Israel’s current leaders,
the Bush administration’s abysmal track record in the region, and
the eroding support for a two-state solution within Israel itself.
Even some of the staunches supporters of a negotiated two-state solution
now lament that
“the idea that
negotiations conducted bilaterally between Israelis and Palestinians
somehow can produce a final agreement
is dead.”

But the question must be asked:
What is the alternative?
What vision of the future do hard-line defenders of Israel have to offer instead?

Given present circumstances,
there are three possible alternatives to the two-state solution sketched above.

Israel could expel the Palestinians
from its pre-1967 lands and from the Occupied Territories,
thereby preserving its Jewish character
through an over act of ethnic cleansing.
Although a few Israeli hard-liners—
including Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman
have advocated variants on this approach,
to do so would be a crime against humanity and
no genuine friend of Israel could support such a heinous course of action.
If this is what opponents of a two-state solution are advocating,
they should say so explicitly.
This form of ethnic cleansing would not end the conflict, however;
it would merely reinforce the Palestinians’ desire for vengeance
and strengthen those extremists who still reject Israel’s right to exist.

instead of separate Jewish and Palestinian states living side by side,
Mandate Palestine could become a democratic binational state
in which both peoples enjoyed equal political rights.
This solution has been suggested by a handful of Jews
and a growing number of Israeli Arabs.
The practical obstacles to this option are daunting, however,
and binational states do not have an encouraging track record.
This option also means abandoning the original Zionist vision of a Jewish state.
There is little reason to think that
Israel’s Jewish citizens would voluntarily accept this solution,
and one can also safely assume that individuals and groups in the lobby
would have virtually no interest in this outcome.
We do not believe it is a feasible or appropriate solution ourselves.

The final option is some form of apartheid,
whereby Israel continues to increase its control over the Occupied Territories
but allows the Palestinians to exercise limited autonomy
in a set of disconnected and economically crippled statelets.
Israelis invariably bristle at the comparison to white rule in South Africa,
but that is the future they face
if they try to control all of Mandate Palestine
while denying full political rights to an Arab population
that will soon outnumber the Jewish population in the entirety of the land.
In any case, the apartheid option is not a viable long-term solution either,
because it is morally repugnant and
because the Palestinians will continue to resist
until they get a state of their own.
This situation will force Israel to escalate the repressive policies
that have already
cost it significant blood and treasure,
encouraged political corruption, and
badly tarnished its global image.

These possibilities are the only alternatives to a two-state solution,
and no one who wishes Israel well
should be enthusiastic about any of them.
Given the harm that this conflict is inflicting on Israel,
the United States, and especially the Palestinians,
it is in everyone’s interest to end this tragedy once and for all.
Put differently,
resolving this long and bitter conflict
should not be seen as a desirable option
at some point down the road,
or as a good way for U.S. presidents to polish their legacies
and garner Nobel Peace Prizes.
ending the conflict should be seen as
a national security priority for the United States.


this will not happen as long as
the lobby makes it impossible for American leaders
to use the leverage at their disposal
to pressure Israel into ending the occupation
and creating a viable Palestinian state.

what M+W are asking for, “pressuring Israel,”
is passionately opposed by the American Jewish community.
Just ask the first President Bush.]

The U.S. presidents
who have made the greatest contribution to Middle East peace—
Jimmy Carter [39] and George H. W. Bush [41]—
were able to do so precisely because
each was willing on occasion to chart a separate course from the lobby.
As former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami has written,

“Carter had yet another vital advantage.
A rare bird among politicians,
and especially among residents of the White House,
he was not especially sensitive or attentive
to Jewish voices and lobbies

As it turned out, it was this kind of President—
George [H.W.] Bush in the late 1980s is another case in point—
who was ready to confront Israel head on
overlook the sensibilities of her friends in America
that managed eventually to produce
meaningful breakthroughs on the way to an Arab-Israeli peace.”

Ben-Ami is correct, and his important insight underscores once again
how the lobby’s efforts have unwittingly undermined Israel’s own interests.

The United States will have to put significant pressure on Israel
to get it to accept the creation of a viable Palestinian state,

which in practice means accepting a solution within the Clinton parameters.
Although the Barak government accepted these parameters—
albeit with significant reservations—in January 2001,
broad support for the key elements of this solution is at present lacking.
While a majority of Israelis—55 percent in 2007—
support the establishment of a Palestinians state in principle,
a recent survey reveals much less support for
the main ingredients of the peace settlement
described by President Clinton in December 2000.
In particular,
only 41 percent of Israelis support
creating a Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza,
even if Israel was allowed to keep its large settlement blocs.
Just 37 percent would support
transferring the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians,
while only 22 percent favor
transferring control of the Jordan River Valley to a Palestinian state
in a few years.
Finally, 27 percent support
giving control of the Temple Mount to the Palestinians
(with Israel retaining control of the Western Wall),
and a mere 17 percent favor
allowing a limited number of refugees to return to Israel.
In effect,

there is widespread opposition in Israel
to creating a viable Palestinian state,

which means that any future president who hopes to settle this conflict
will have to lean hard on Israel to change its thinking
about how to achieve a two-state solution.

[Lots of luck.]

Israel’s intransigence and the lobby’s influence
are not the only obstacles to a peaceful settlement, of course,
and ending the conflict will require the United States (and others)
to pressure the Palestinians as well.
This will be much easier to do if the Palestinians and key Arab states
see the United States as genuinely committed to a just peace
and willing to act as an honest broker,
instead of operating as “Israel’s lawyer.”
A genuine effort to end the conflict—
as opposed to
the Bush administration’s halfhearted commitment to the Road Map or
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s meaningless regional visits—
will force the Palestinians to make a real choice.
As it stands now,
there is little reason for the Palestinians not to support groups like Hamas,
because the possibility of meaningful negotiations is remote
and supporting the most radical groups
costs little in the way of missed opportunities.
But if the United States presses hard to help them gain a viable state,
and Hamas is exposed as the main obstacle to that end,
then the Palestinians would be more likely to turn against Hamas
and seize the olive branch.

Israel’s American backers need to recognize that
denying the Palestinians their legitimate political rights
has not made Israel safer

[The sad fact is, it may have made Israel safer,
but only at immense (and generally unacknowledged) cost to the United States.]
and those who have lobbied hardest for unconditional U.S. backing
have ultimately
nurtured Israeli and Palestinian extremism and
inflicted unintended hardships
on the very country that they seek to support.
It is high time to abandon this bankrupt policy and pursue a different course.

[In fact,
much of the hostility of West Bankers towards Israel
is caused by
the grievous facts of the occupation of the West Bank.
Many authorities have agreed on that point.
Note that Hamas was created only after the occupation of the West Bank,
and its terrorism has only increased with the prolongation of the occupation.

It is an insult to reason and history that so many Zionists confuse cause with effect,
implying that the occupation is a response to terrorism
rather than the other way around.
The 1967 war, according to Zionist accounts,
was a response to actions and perceived threats from the armed forces of Egypt,
not from the Palestinians who were then living under Jordanian rule in the West Bank.]

The policies sketched here are no panacea,
and they will not eliminate all the problems
currently facing the United States in the Middle East.
Achieving a final peace between Israel and the Palestinians
will require all the parties to engage in
difficult and probably violent confrontations with rejectionists on both sides.
Israeli-Palestinian peace
is not a wonder drug that will solve all the region’s problems:
it will by itself neither eliminate anti-Semitism in the region
nor lead Arab elites to tackle the other problems that afflict their societies
with new energy and commitment.
But ending the conflict and adopting a more normal relationship with Israel
will help the United States rebuild its image in the Arab and Islamic world
and put it in a position where it can more credibly encourage
the various reforms that are badly needed elsewhere in the region.

Some may argue that
the problems the United States currently faces in the Middle East
are an aberration,
due primarily to the influence on one faction in the lobby—
the neoconservatives.
Once President Bush’s second term is over
and the neoconservatives are out of power,
one might hope,
U.S. foreign policy will revert to more sensible positions
and America’s regional position will quickly improve.

This hopeful forecast, alas, is too optimistic.
Although a number of prominent neoconservatives
no longer serve in government,
they are still active in current policy debates.
Some of them are advising 2008 presidential candidates
and they remain a ubiquitous presence in the mainstream media.
[From which Mearsheimer and Walt are almost totally blocked
(e.g., by the Washington Post).
How’s that for proof that Jews do control the media?
(Or at least the Graham/Weymouth family.)]

To date,
few neoconservatives seem chastened by the havoc their policies have wrought,
and even fewer
have expressed any remorse about the human costs of their misguided advice.
The think tanks that support them
are still flourishing and influential inside the Beltway
and will continue to influence American foreign policy after the next election.

Equally important,
many of the organizations in the lobby
remain committed to the same policy agenda:
  1. steadfast support for an expansionist Israel
    at the expense of the Palestinians;

  2. confrontation with Israel’s adversaries
    for the purpose of either
    fundamentally changing each country’s foreign policy or
    toppling the regime,

  3. maintaining a substantial American presence in the region
    over the longer term.
As previously noted,
none of the major presidential candidates
has proposed a significant alteration in U.S. Middle East policy,
and certainly nothing like the strategy we have outlined here.
[Cf. Obama.]
Thus, anyone who believes that the 2008 election
will lead to markedly different policies
is likely to be disappointed.

Labels: , , ,