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Two scholars say pro-Israel lobby has warped U.S. policy

Comment: Here is at least one newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, that
properly reported the Walt-Mearsheimer session on Monday. Compare this
informative piece with Milbank's snide bashing in the Washington Post.

*Sent:* Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:09 PM
*Subject:* Two scholars say pro-Israel lobby has warped U.S. policy



*Two scholars say pro-Israel lobby has warped U.S. policy*

*By Frank James*

*Chicago** Tribune*

*August 28 2006*

* *

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/15383641.htm

* *

WASHINGTON - Two scholars who created a controversy earlier this year
when they wrote that the pro-Israel lobby exerted too much influence
over U.S. foreign policy said Monday that the recent Israel-Hezbollah
war in Lebanon was yet another example of what they view as a dangerous
tendency.



John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political science professor,
and Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard
University's Kennedy School, said the U.S. government's unstinting
support for Israel's recent war in Lebanon once again placed the agenda
of what they call the Israel lobby ahead of U.S. strategic interests.



The result, they said, was that the U.S. position in the Middle East,
already strained due to the Iraq War, had worsened with consequences
that wouldn't just be bad for America, but Israel as well.



"One, Iran and Syria are more likely to continue arming and supporting
Hezbollah," Mearsheimer said.



"Two, Iran and Syria have even more reason to keep the U.S. pinned down
in Iraq so it's not attacked by U.S. troops," he said. "Three, Iran has
more reason than ever to acquire nuclear weapons so it can deter an
Israeli or U.S. attack on its homeland."



Mearsheimer and Walt, who appeared at an event hosted by the Council on
American Islamic Relations, singled out the American-Israel Public
Affairs Council as the leading example of the how the lobby has warped
U.S. policy. It was the same point they made in their essay called "The
Israel Lobby" that was published in March in the London Review of Books.



They blamed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading
pro-Israel lobby, for a failed attempt to slightly amend language in a
pro-Israel House resolution to call on the warring parties to protect
innocent civilians and infrastructure. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House
Democratic leader, and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., were among a group of
lawmakers who supported such a change, Mearsheimer said.



"One would think that such language would be unobjectionable if not
welcome," he said. "But AIPAC, which was the main driving force behind
this resolution to begin with, objected and (Rep.) John Boehner (an Ohio
Republican and) the House majority leader, kept the proposed language
out. The resolution still passed 410 to 8."



Mearsheimer also cited the lobby's response to a late July letter to
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. The
congressman asked her to call for an immediate cease-fire and an
international force to enforce it.



But Van Hollen also criticized Israel for going too far in its military
response. "... It is the Lebanese people, not Hezbollah, who are
increasingly the victims of the violence," Van Hollen wrote, adding that
Israel's actions were turning the Lebanese people against not just
Israel but the U.S., its strong ally.



Mearsheimer said, "The lobby was furious with Van Hollen and quickly
moved to tell the congressman in no uncertain terms that he should have
never written the letter.



"Van Hollen met with the various representatives from the major Jewish
organizations who explained to him the basic facts of life in American
politics," Mearsheimer continued. "The congressman apologized, saying:
`I'm sorry if my strong criticism of the Bush administration's failures
have been interpreted as criticism of Israel's conduct in the current
crisis. That was certainly not my intention.'"



A spokesperson for AIPAC said the organization has not commented on
Mearsheimer and Walt's criticisms.



Walt said he and Mearsheimer had expected their essay to be
controversial because when others had made similar observations in the
past about the pro-Israel lobby's political power in U.S. policy
debates, the reaction has typically been heated.



Still, Walt said, "... We were disappointed that much of the reaction
consisted of attacks on our characters or on extraneous issues rather
than on a serious discussion of our main argument. ... We really didn't
say anything that was all that controversial, that wasn't common
knowledge inside the Beltway ...



"So it wasn't what we said," he continued. "It was rather that two
card-carrying members of the mainstream foreign policy establishment
with rather impeccable, even boring, middle-of-the-road credentials and
absolutely no trace of anti-Semitic history, attitudes or behavior
finally pointed out the elephant in the room."



Walt said the two men are preparing a response to the numerous
criticisms they have received in the months since their original article
was published.



© 2006, Chicago Tribune.
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