Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The so-called Pro-Israel Lobby at work

There were a few direct and indirect references to the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby in an article in the NY Times by Steven Erlanger entitled "In New Middle East, Tests for an Old Friendship." The primary thrust of the article related to questions of the degree to which Israel and the U.S. are really seeing eye to eye over policy towards Iran and its "nuclear ambitions." Yes, there has always been a "friendship" between the U.S. and Israel, but the article is about something far beyond simple friendship or pragmatic economic interest.

There is no hard and fast delineation for the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, but I consider it a loose coalition between right wings Jews and right-wing Christians, both of who see Israel in a traditional biblical sense of "The Holy Lands" that were "promised by God", plus a number of politicians who find it advantageous to ally with these two main groups.

In the Times article we read that "Israel’s supporters, including those among an increasingly vocal, fiercely pro-Israel community of evangelicals, who visited the White House at least once during the Lebanon war to voice support for allowing the air attacks on Hezbollah to continue unabated." (My emphasis) This is the right-wing Christian contingent of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

Philip D. Zelikow, counselor to Secretary of State Rice, gave recently gave a speech for which the Times says "the furor over his comments was amplified because they appeared to some to echo criticisms published in March in The London Review of Books by two American scholars, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. They suggested that from the White House to Capitol Hill, Israel’s interests have been confused with America’s, that Israel is more of a security burden than an asset and that the “Israel lobby” in America, including Jewish policy makers, have an undue influence over American foreign policy." In fact, the only contentious point Mr. Zelikow had made was that "to build a coalition to deal with Iran, the United States needed to make progress on solving the Arab-Israeli dispute." That was the Times characterization. As he put it in his own words, "For the Arab moderates and for the Europeans, some sense of progress and momentum on the Arab-Israeli dispute is just a sine qua non for their ability to cooperate actively with the United States on a lot of other things that we care about." Those simple and intuitively obvious words led to quite a stir within the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

Unfortunately, one of the problematic aspects of dealing with the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby is that "opinion polls show that Americans are solidly in support of Israel, with new support coming from evangelical Christians." But such polls can be confusing an misleading. Yes, I myself support a "solid" relationship between the U.S. and many countries, including Israel. The question maybe is whether "solid" means "special" and then how special.

The bottom line here is that the Israelis are hyper-paranoid about Iran, far beyond the inherent interests of the U.S., and how that paranoia may be contaminating U.S. policy, or at least risking the contamination of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

-- Jack Krupansky


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