The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

MEARSHEIMER (John J.) & WALT (Stephen M.), The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, 496 p.

What is the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. Foreign policy – and is it in America’s national interest?

“The Israel Lobby” by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, was one of the most controversial articles in recent memory. Originally published in the London Review of Books in March 2006, the essay provoked both howls of outrage and cheers of gratitude for examining one of the most taboo issues in America : the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy. According to The New York Times Magazine, it “slammed into the opinion-making world with a Category 5 force”.

Now, in a work of major importance, Mearsheimer and Walt deepen and expand their argument and confront recent developments in the Midde East. They describe the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel and argue that this support cannot be fully explained on either strategic or moral grounds. The exceptional relationship is due largely to the political influence of a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively works to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. Mearsheimer and Walt provocatively contend that the lobby has a far-reaching impact on America’s posture throughout the Middle East – in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Lebanon – and toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the policies it has encouraged are profoundly damaging to both America’s national interests and Israel’s longterm security. The lobby’s influence also affects America’s relationship with important allies and increases the dangers that all states face from global jihadist terror.

Writing in the New York Review of Books , Michael Massing declared, “Not since Foreign Affairs magazine published Samuel  Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations”? in 1993 has an academic essay detonated with such force.” The publication of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is certain to widen the debate at a time when there is no more urgent issue than America’s role in the Middle East.