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The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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ISBN10: 0374531501
ISBN13: 9780374531508

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496 Pages


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A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"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, it provoked both howls of outrage and cheers of gratitude for challenging what had been a taboo issue in America: the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy.

Now in a work of major importance, Mearsheimer and Walt deepen and expand their argument and confront recent developments in Lebanon and Iran. They describe the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel and argues that this support cannot be fully explained on either strategic or moral grounds. This exceptional relationship is due largely to the political influence of a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively work to shape 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, Iran, Lebanon, and toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and the policies it has encouraged are in neither America's national interest nor Israel's long-term interest. The lobby's influence also affects America's relationship with important allies and increases 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 and to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.


Praise for The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

"Political theorists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt show how the right to the pursuit of happiness presently enables foreign governments to exert adverse influence over foreign-policy questions of war and peace simply by coordinating the expression of private citizens' ostensible self-interest. Public-choice scholars and other curious individuals will relish the analysis and insights presented in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy . . . The book has three parts plus an additional 106 pages of detailed endnotes. The authors begin by documenting the 'uncritical and uncompromising relationship' that the United States has with Israel and the extraordinary amount of financial and military aid it provides to Israel . . . The book's second part comprises case studies that document the lobby's influence over U.S. policy toward individual Middle East nations and populations. The book's third and concluding section fittingly asks, 'What is to be done?' The disappointing conclusion is that very little appears to be possible at this juncture."—James A. Montanye, The Independent Review

"[In] an extended, more fully argued version of the London Review article . . . slowly, deliberately and dispassionately Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt lay out the case for a ruthlessly realistic Middle East policy that would make Israel nothing more than one of many countries in the region . . . Coolly, not to say coldly, Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt mount a prosecutorial brief against Israel's foreign policy and domestic policies, and against the state Israel itself . . . It is a little odd that so chilly a book should generate such heat. Most of Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt's arguments are familiar ones, and it is hardly inflammatory to point out that the major Jewish organizations tend to take a much tougher line on, say, a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem, the Iraq war or settlements in the West Bank, than most American Jews favor. The writers stand on eminently defensible ground when they argue for a more constructive, creative American role in peace talks."—William Grimes, The New York Times

"Mearsheimer and Walt were previously known as hard-core 'realists' who minimized the importance of studying domestic politics and culture to understanding foreign policy. They seem to have abandoned such 'structural realism' for what might be called 'political realism': the view that the beliefs, values, and interests of various domestic actors shape their perception of the national interest and that the interaction between these domestic forces and international conditions holds the key to understanding policy. This political realism is a significantly richer and more fruitful (if more intellectually demanding and methodologically complex) approach than the structural realism that Mearsheimer, especially, advocated in the past. One must also commend the two authors for their decision to focus on an important topic that has not received the attention it merits. The politics of U.S. policy in the Middle East is a subject that is not well understood . . . Mearsheimer and Walt have admirably and courageously helped to start a much-needed conversation on a controversial and combustible topic. There should be no taboos among students of U.S. foreign policy—no questions that should not be asked, no issues that should be considered too hot to handle, no relationships or alliances, however deep or enduring, that should not be regularly and searchingly reviewed. Walt and Mearsheimer's belief that the United States needs to find ways to bridge the gap between its current policies and the national aspirations of Palestinians and other Arabs is correct . . . Domestic politics, geopolitics: next is cultural politics—and especially the question of anti-Semitism. There have already been public charges of anti-Semitism, and more will come. Let me be unambiguously clear: those charges go too far. Mearsheimer and Walt state very clearly that they are not anti-Semites, and nothing in this book proves them wrong."—Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs

"After reading The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, I remain impressed with Mearsheimer and Walt's bravery. I also do agree with their main argument . . . An important service in pointing out how difficult it is to produce pragmatic decisions based on national interest in an area as important to the United States as the Middle East."—Dimitri K. Simes, The National Interest

"The book raises important issues for American foreign policy that must be addressed and debated."—Geoffrey Kemp, The National Interest

"The book does not shy from the most pressing foreign policy issues of the day: U.S. policy toward Iran is fully, fairly and properly explored, along with the Israel lobby's role in it, and U.S.-Syrian relations are carefully reviewed. The neoconservative role in fashioning our views of Israel and the Middle East makes fascinating reading . . . Perhaps the most important argument made by Mearsheimer and Walt concerns the impact of the lobby on the political discourse in the United States . . . Mearsheimer and Walt make the case that the structure informing U.S.-Israeli relations—the financial, media, personal and ideological relationships—no longer benefit either nation. Theirs is a powerful call for change for the sake of both Washington and Tel Aviv."—Stefan Halper, The National Interest

"Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's book is far more expansive in scope, detailed in argument, and thoroughly sourced (106 pages of footnotes) than their 2006 article on the same subject . . . This is a difficult and challenging book. It is also an important book that deserves to be debated . . . Despite the accusations, this is not a hateful screed. Painful, yes. Prejudiced, no. As the authors close off each possible avenue of anti-Semitic intent or effect, they come across as thorough, not ritualistic or tokenistic . . . Always compelling . . . The second half of the book is devoted to concrete examples, with which the authors make their case that the lobby influences foreign policy in ways that are detrimental to the U.S. national interest . . . Walt and Mearsheimer suggest that ‘it is time to treat Israel like a normal country.' Presumably unintentionally, they echo the classical Zionist goal of creating a normal country. The two are linked. Absent a different discussion with the U.S. and our friends there, Israel is unlikely to become normal. Perhaps this difficult book can help advance that discussion."—Daniel Levy, Senior Fellow, New America and Century Foundations, Haaretz

"There is no evidence that Mr Mearsheimer and Mr Walt were motivated by any anti-Jewish prejudice . . . The authors have won plaudits for taking on this supposed ‘taboo' and enduring the inevitable opprobrium."—The Economist

"Expanding on their notorious 2006 article in the London Review of Books, the authors increase the megatonnage of their explosive claims about the malign influence of the pro-Israel lobby on the U.S. government. Mearsheimer and Walt, political scientists at the University of Chicago and Harvard, respectively, survey a wide coalition of pro-Israel groups and individuals, including American Jewish organizations and political donors, Christian fundamentalists, neo-con officials in the executive branch, media pundits who smear critics of Israel as anti-Semites and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which they characterize as having an almost unchallenged hold on Congress. This lobby, they contend, has pressured the U.S. government into Middle East policies that are strategically and morally unjustifiable: lavish financial subsidies for Israel despite its occupation of Palestinian territories; needless American confrontations with Israel's foes Syria and Iran; uncritical support of Israel's 2006 bombing of Lebanon, which violated the laws of war; and the Iraq war, which almost certainly would not have occurred had [the Israel lobby] been absent. The authors disavow conspiracy mongering, noting that the lobby's activities constitute legitimate, if misguided, interest-group politics, as American as apple pie. Considering the authors' academic credentials and the careful reasoning and meticulous documentation with which they support their claims, the book is bound to rekindle the controversy."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Israel Lobby authors Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer

Allison Weir interviews "Israel Lobby" authors Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer. Originally aired on INN World Report on August 31 2006

About the author

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. He has published several books, including The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.

Stephen M. Walt is the Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and was academic dean of the Kennedy School from 2002 to 2006. He is the author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy, among other books.

Copyright Greg Martin
Martha Stewart