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The Lobby, the U.S. and the Israeli War on Hezbollah

Date:   Wed, 30 Aug 2006 12:13:22 -0400 (EDT)
From:   Council for the National Interest Foundation


*The Lobby, the **U.S. and the Israeli War on Hezbollah*
August 30, 2006
by Terry Walz, CNI Staff

The U.S. blanket support for the Israeli war on Hezbollah can be laid at
the feet of the Israel Lobby, concluded Professor Stephen Walt and Prof.
John Mearsheimer in an analysis they presented at the National Press
Club in Washington on August 28. Their presentation, which was sponsored
by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was a widening of their
critique of the lobby and focused on the role it played in the recent
Israel-Hezbollah war. It showed once again how the lobby works against
both Israel's and the United States' national interests.

Their original thesis, "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" was
presented in shortened form in the /London Review of Books/ in March and
prompted a lively controversy in both the mainstream press and academic
journals. Rarely has the subject of the power of the Israel lobby been
approached by professors from such eminent universities. Mearsheimer is
a professor of international politics and security issues at the
University of Chicago and Walt is an international affairs scholar at
the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Walt reviewed that thesis for the audience yesterday in his segment of
the presentation, leaving Mearsheimer to discuss the role of the Lobby
in the recent Israel-Hezbollah war. The destruction of Lebanon's
infrastructure, the bombing of areas not associated with Hezbollah, and
especially the killing of almost 1,200 civilians, many of them women and
children – which constitutes an international war crime according to
Amnesty International and other organizations – had no effect whatsoever
on either the U.S. executive branch or Congress. On the contrary,
working in lock-step with the Israel Lobby (especially AIPAC), Congress
rushed through resolutions on both sides praising Israel for its war
against Lebanon, disregarding the wanton death and destruction it was
causing to civilian populations and ignoring world opinion. The U.S. was
the only country to support Israel in this war.

Mearsheimer reviewed the pressure brought on Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and
Sen. John Warner (R-VA) for offering softer language on the resolution,
and on Chris van Hollen (D-MD) for daring to call for an immediate
ceasefire in a letter to Condoleezza Rice. Van Hollen was in fact told
what consequences he faced if he didn't withdraw his statement, and it
came shortly thereafter in the form of an abject apology to the Jewish
community. Nor, having received it, did local Jewish leaders seem
satisfied, one saying that he needed to "continue to reach out to the
Jewish community to reassure the Jewish community he was going to be
there for Israel" – a clear threat to his political future should he
deviate again from the lobby's script.

Mearsheimer said that the evidence shows that the Israelis had briefed
the American administration before launching the war on Hezbollah, and
therefore the US was in a position to give it a "red light instead of a
green light when it proposed its plan to attack Lebanon." It provided
support for the war despite worldwide condemnation of the attack, and
only when it appeared that the Israeli army was unable to crush
Hezbollah did the Bush administration and the Israeli government
accepted the need for negotiations. The US diplomacy at the UN earned
President Bush a compliment when the Israeli prime minister thanked Bush
on August 11 for "safeguarding Israel's interests in the Security Council."

Mearsheimer and Walt suggested that the United States has three major
strategic concerns in the Middle East: terrorism ("mainly about
neutralizing al-Qaeda"), dealing with rogue states ("Syria and Iran"),
and the war in Iraq ("which the United States is in danger of losing.")
He pointed out that support for Israel's war on Lebanon complicated
Washington's ability to deal with all three concerns. The US position is
so closely aligned with Israel these days that, as Mearsheimer quoted
Aaron Miller, "there is no daylight whatsoever between the government of
Israel and the government of the United States."

Did the US push Israel to attack Lebanon, as might a state order a
client state to do? Mearsheimer thought not, but since the United States
had been briefed about the attack, it should have said no for its own
national interests and for those of Israel. He concluded, "Until the
lobby begins to favor a different approach or until its influence is
weakened, U.S. policy in the region will continue to be hamstrung to
everyone's detriment."

Note: CNI filmed the press conference, and it will be available on the
CNI website. In the meantime, it is available from C-Span

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