One of the most poisonous debates in American politics in recent years has been the question of whether an “Israel lobby” distorts American foreign policy in the middle east. Two years ago, the American foreign policy “realists” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published a controversial article on this theme in the London Review of Books, which they later turned into a book. Their thesis was that America’s “unwavering support” for Israel, which jeopardised its own security and that of its allies, was the result of an Israel Lobby (the capitalisation was theirs) that exercised significant influence over the congressional and executive branches of US politics. The piece caused a firestorm, with the professors being accused in some quarters of reviving old antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish cabals, while others claimed that their basic understanding of the inner workings of US policymaking was flawed.
Prospect‘s cover story this month takes a slightly different approach. Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli historian and journalist, argues that while Mearsheimer and Walt overstated their case in several ways, Washington’s Israel lobby does have power and influence, and that its hawkish views on the middle east conflict with those of mainstream American Jews, as well as those of Israelis themselves. Why, then, is there no “counter-Aipac,” no dovish Israel lobby operating in Washington? It seems that finally, one is about to be unveiled.
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