New book challenges US support for Israel

An upcoming book challenging whether diplomatic and military support for Israel is in the best interests of the United States is set to spark fresh debate on Washington’s role in the Middle East.

“The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” written by two of the United States’ most influential political science professors, is set to hit the bookshelves next Tuesday and promises to break the taboo on the subject. Written by John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt from Harvard, the book follows an article they published last year that stirred impassioned debate by setting out a similar position.

Their thesis is that US endorsement of Israel is not fully explained by strategic or moral reasons, but by the pressure exerted by Jewish lobbyists, Christian fundamentalists and neo-conservatives with Zionist sympathies.

The result, according to the book, is an unbalanced US foreign policy in the Middle East, the US invasion of Iraq, the threat of war with Iran or Syria and a fragile security situation for the entire Western world. “Israel is not the strategic asset to the United States that many claim. Israel may have been a strategic asset during the Cold War, but it has become a growing liability now that the Cold War is over,” the authors said.

“Unconditional support for Israel has reinforced anti-Americanism around the world, helped fuel America’s terrorism problem, and strained relations with other key allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia,” they added.

According to the two writers, “backing Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians has reinforced Anti-Americanism around the world and almost certainly helped terrorists recruit new followers.”

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, described the book as “an insidious, biased account of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of the role of supporters of Israel in the US,” in an interview with AFP.

“Everything about American policy toward the conflict is presented in exaggerated form, as if America is completely one-sided in support of Israel and that those policies are simply the product of the Israel lobby.” He is countering Mearsheimer and Walt’s book with his own title: “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control,” due out on the same day.

Mearsheimer and Walt highlight the three billion dollars in US economic and military aid that Israel receives every year – more than any other country. They also point to Washington’s diplomatic support: between 1972 and 2006, the United States vetoed 42 United Nations Security Council resolutions that were critical of Israel, while watering down many others under threat of veto. Foxman counters that the special relationship works both ways and that the United States has gained much out of its ally.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs canceled a public debate on the issue planned for September and featuring Mearsheimer and Walt when they were unable to schedule a time that Foxman could also manage.

In the conclusion of their book, Mearsheimer and Walt say that the United States must change its policy towards Israel. “The United States would be a better ally if its leaders could make support for Israel more conditional and if they could give their Israeli counterparts more candid advice without facing a backlash from the Israel lobby.” With just over a year until the 2008 US presidential election, however, they said the issue was unlikely to even enter the debate.