Mearsheimer: the lobby can’t hide the fact it is siding with Israel against the US president

US Politics
on 28 Comments

John Mearsheimer at LRB says one great thing about the contretemps is that it has forced the lobby out into the open, taking a stand against the US president and still claiming that it is operating in the American interest:

Siding with Israel against the United States was not a great problem a few years ago: one could pretend that the interests of the two countries were the same and there was little knowledge in the broader public about how the Israel lobby operated and how much it influenced the making of US Middle East policy. But those days are gone, probably for ever. It is now commonplace to talk about the lobby in the mainstream media and almost everyone who pays serious attention to American foreign policy understands – thanks mainly to the internet – that the lobby is an especially powerful interest group.

Therefore, it will be difficult to disguise the fact that most pro-Israel groups are siding with Israel against the US president, and defending policies that respected military leaders now openly question. This is an awful situation for the lobby to find itself in, because it raises legitimate questions about whether it has the best interests of the United States at heart or whether it cares more about Israel’s interests. Again, this matters more than ever, because key figures in the administration have let it be known that Israel is acting in ways that at best complicate US diplomacy, and at worst could get Americans killed.

The crisis will undoubtedly simmer down over the next few weeks. We are already hearing lots of reassuring rhetoric from the administration and Capitol Hill about ‘shared values’, ‘unbreakable bonds’ and the other supposed virtues of the special relationship. And the lobby is hard at work downplaying the importance of the crisis. For example, Congressman Gary Ackerman, a fervent supporter of Israel, described recent events as a ‘mini-crisis, if even that’. Michael Oren is now denying – rather late in the game I might add – that he ever said that relations between Israel and the United States are at a 35-year low. He claims to have been ‘flagrantly misquoted’. And to show how Orwellian the lobby can be, Israel’s supporters are also trying to make the case that Biden too was flagrantly misquoted and indeed, he never told Netanyahu that Israel’s policies were putting American troops at risk.

This concerted effort to rewrite history and generate lots of happy talk about the special relationship will surely help ameliorate the present crisis, but that will only be a temporary fix.

28 Responses

  1. Donald
    March 17, 2010, 12:52 pm

    It’s good to see the Lobby embarrassed, but anyone who is opposed to the US government’s foreign policy at various times should feel a little uneasy about the argument that “hey, you’ve got respected US military leaders against you, so you’re unpatriotic.” This reminds me of the wild pro-CIA enthusiasm one could find among some liberals after Valerie Plame was exposed.

    It is nice that the military understands that supporting Israel right or wrong increases hatred of the US and recruits for terrorist groups, but that argument was true even before Petraeus might have made it. It’s also true that our own policies increase hatred and recruit for terrorists. The argument should be emphasized more than the arguer.

  2. Chaos4700
    March 17, 2010, 1:02 pm

    I’d like to think this incident will keep getting aggravated and more and more Americans will start to understand that Zionism is actually a threat to the safety and security of the United States, as well as of the entire Middle East.

    • Chu
      March 17, 2010, 6:08 pm

      Like my man Emmanuel says, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste”.

  3. potsherd
    March 17, 2010, 1:06 pm

    AIPAC is going to become an acknowledged arm of the Republican party.

    In the meantime, J Street is openly supporting Obama, consistent with its declared policy.

    The Israel issue is going to come out into the open as a partisan issue in US politics over this election year.

    • James Bradley
      March 17, 2010, 1:53 pm

      The Israel issue is going to come out into the open as a partisan issue in US politics over this election year.

      And its about time.

      • Citizen
        March 17, 2010, 2:08 pm

        Yay; and even Israel’s patent on nukes in the Middle East may be given some sunshine after Obama gets back from that international meeting seeking to
        slow down, even dismantle nukes. Imagine if JFK hadn’t been killed right when he was tring to prevent more nuclear arms race by attempting to stop Israel’s race toward the bomb? Imagine further, if Bobby K hadn’t lost his brother, hence his cover upon that murder by that red patsy–lost his cover to demand AIPAC’s predecessor register as a foreign agent under FARA.

      • Brewer
        March 17, 2010, 5:41 pm

        I haven’t had time to keep up with every thread lately so apologies if this has been discussed:

        US Department of Justice Asked to Regulate AIPAC as a Foreign Agent of the Israeli Government
        link to

      • Taxi
        March 17, 2010, 6:25 pm

        Thanks for the link Brewer.

        It put a smile on my face to see the story tucked away nicely in the ‘Fox Business’ section.

        Makes me also wonder if Obama, behind the scenes, is pushing to fight Aipac on a battlefield he’s strongest and most familiar with: The Judiciary.

        The sub-plot thickens.

        A highly recommend link.

    • Mooser
      March 17, 2010, 4:29 pm

      “The Israel issue is going to come out into the open as a partisan issue in US politics over this election year.”

      Hello dyspepsia! My old friend, scarring my esophagus again! And in a vision softly creeping, I thought that the abortion discussion will be civil and rational by comparison.
      What a horrible thought! But here it comes, Oy, and a mighty whine was loosed across the land.

      Of course, you can’t say Israel hasn’t been a partisan issue before. Both parties claimed they loved Israel more.
      I’m not saying it won’t happen, and I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen, but wow, is it going to suck!

    • Shingo
      March 18, 2010, 5:03 am

      “AIPAC is going to become an acknowledged arm of the Republican party.”

      But imagine if Patreaus sides with the Democrats or Obama over this? What are the Republicans going to do without their poster boy?

  4. Colin Murray
    March 17, 2010, 1:10 pm

    AIPAC has openly and brazenly attacked an American president on behalf of a foreign power for contemplating doing his duty to execute American foreign policy to serve American interests. Hopefully this episode will open the door to both revocation of its tax-exempt status, which their recent public lobbying has rendered invalid, and lawful enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act on it and the many other organizations and individuals that comprise the Israel Lobby.

    Enforcement of this American law would be neither antisemitic nor anti-Israeli. It was passed by Congress long before Israel was created and is designed to ensure that organizations and people who lobby our government on behalf of foreign powers fully disclose their attempts to influence elected and appointed officials of the United States government. The Israel Lobby could still lobby the US government to adopt policies that serve Israeli interests, but like every other foreign lobby would no longer be able to do so behind closed doors or pretend that they were doing so on behalf of America.

    United States Department of Justice, Foreign Agents Registration Act

    The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938. FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. The FARA Registration Unit of the Counterespionage Section (CES) in the National Security Division (NSD) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act.

    • Citizen
      March 17, 2010, 1:45 pm

      Declassified files in 2008 show that Kennedy ordered AIPAC’s predecessor AZC (same org, different name) to register as a foreign agent under FARA:
      link to

      • Citizen
        March 17, 2010, 2:14 pm

        Here’s the scoop regarding the Kennedys deep desire to end the likes of AIPAC:

        link to

        Read the comments too–lots of good stuff and url references for more research there.

        Johnson, naturally, is responsible for allowing Israel to acquire nukes, the same
        guy that covered-up Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty, the same guy who laughed
        at the notion the Gulf Of Tonken incident was more than some old ladies shooting
        at ducks–but used it as a pretext to greatly escalate the Vietnam War. Those who sing his praise for signing in Civil Rights advances always that hideous part of
        the big hillbilly Texan.

      • RoHa
        March 17, 2010, 11:16 pm

        “Here’s the scoop regarding the Kennedys deep desire to end the likes of AIPAC:”

        And you remember what happened to the Kennedys.

  5. Duscany
    March 17, 2010, 1:26 pm

    General Petraeus is saying our blind support of Israel is putting American soldiers at risk. Hillary Clinton is saying Israel and the US enjoy “a close, unshakable bond.” Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to maintain an unshakable bond with a country which is endangering American lives?

    • Citizen
      March 17, 2010, 1:49 pm

      Why, was Bill in the military service? Was Chelsea? Well, Bill did say once he was ready to a bayonet between his teeth and hit the war trenches for Israel. Beiden’s son BTW did spend a year in Iraq–as a JAG captain (cushy, protected job–even in Iraq).

  6. dalybean
    March 17, 2010, 1:36 pm

    And the lobby is siding against our highest military advisors. I’m convinced that part of the reason for this crisis was the clear and present danger of Israel attacking Iran. That is why the Administration stopped saying that all options are on the table and why Petraeus has said that Israeli/Palestinian peace should be part of our Iran strategy.

    Israel, armed to the teeth with Nuclear Weapons and boastful of its illegal preventive war strategy, not to mention the Samson option, is the most dangerous nation on the planet.

    Israel’s position on Iran and on Palestine is a serious risk to our national security.

    • Citizen
      March 17, 2010, 2:19 pm

      Tell that to all those rinky-dink redneck reps in cheap suits in the US House I heard and watched singing Israel’s praises on C-SPAN early today. It’s like they were little kids
      reciting a nursery rhyme they had learned. The Saggy Baggy Elephant, a Golden Book.

    • Citizen
      March 17, 2010, 3:55 pm

      It sure looks like the US is planning to attack Iran, or planning to give Israel the green light, so it will then be “helplessly” drawn in to also attack Iran to help our special friend, which is threatened by Iran’s invisible war nukes–something to think about since Iran also has such an invisible history over the last couple of centuries as
      a predator nation. If this is so, no wonder Obama is pissed–he’s setting us up
      for WW3 to show his support for Israel and Israel gives him the Bronx Cheer. I mean, hey, that might even piss off Zionists like Rahm, Axlerod, Beiden–and even (in thick-ankled copy-cat format) the
      still power-hungry WASPY Lady Hillary!

      • Citizen
        March 17, 2010, 3:56 pm

        Oops, I had a reference url for my comment:
        link to

      • Chaos4700
        March 17, 2010, 4:13 pm

        It’s the beginning of the end, I suppose. I’m inclined to lean toward your interpretation, Citizen. I — along with the Arab world, from what little I’ve read — don’t think the so-called “Biden flap” has been anything but political theater to give both countries an out. And to feint while the pieces fall into place.

      • Chu
        March 17, 2010, 6:15 pm

        I hope you reading of the situation is incorrect, but it’s easy to be a cynic when you dealing with Israel. This clears the way for a “we don’t support Israel” as they sent the fighter jets across Iraqi airspace. I was surprised to hear Hillary on the blower last week, chewing out Netanyahu. This is the same woman who said we could obliterate Iran only a year ago on the campaign trail.

  7. Citizen
    March 17, 2010, 3:17 pm

    The Lobby can’t hide the fact it is siding with Israel against Obama–and neither can the Washington Post–from the author of the Transparent Cabal:

    Washington Post Bashes Obama’s “Quickness to Bludgeon” Israel!


    Let’s see, Israel is continually building illegal (by the standards of international law) settlements on the West Bank on property seized from Palestinians. Israel’s construction in East Jerusalem essentially prevents a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians, who expect to control that territory. The Obama administration essentially overlooked these actions until Israel publicly announced plans for new construction in East Jerusalem at the very time when Vice President Biden was visiting Israel. And, after all of this, who does the Washington Post criticize for belligerency—Obama! The “American chastising of Israel invariably prompts still harsher rhetoric, and elevated demands, from Palestinian and other Arab leaders,” the Post pontificates.

    link to

    No, we certainly wouldn’t want the Palestinians to make such “elevated demands” as the right to land that Israel has taken from them!

    The Post is very much disturbed about “Mr. Obama’s quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government.” Yes, certainly criticism, when Israel is the one criticized, must be equated with bullying and beating. And the Post goes on to claim that “He is not the first president to do so.” Presumably, in the convoluted imagination of the Washington Post’s editorialist, American presidents have been walloping poor little Israel for years. But the Post is not about to cry over allegedly victimized Israel but points out that “tough tactics don’t always work.” Yes, a few critical words—when directed at Israel–certainly represent inappropriate “tough tactics!” One would think, however, that in any real effort to get tough with Israel, the United States would go beyond strong words, and actually threaten to reduce its physical support for the Jewish state. But such a tough tactic presumably transcends the limits of the Post’s imagination—or is just not allowed to be considered. Of course, where Israel’s Middle East enemies are concerned, the Post has not been loath to support economic sanctions, bombing, and invasions.

    As a result of his purportedly belligerent stance last year, “Mr. Obama’s poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits.” The Post continues: “The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders.” Obama certainly wouldn’t want to lose the support of the Israeli people. But exactly what country does Obama represent? And what country does the Washington Post think that he should represent? Interestingly, while the Post expresses concern about the Israelis unhappiness with Obama, it conversely is upset about the US actually seeming to appeal to the interests of the Palestinians and Arabs, which might cause them to make “elevated demands.”

    Let me point out the overriding significance of what the Washington Post has written. These words did not come from the Christian Right, the neoconservatives, AIPAC, or some other entity known to be biased in favor of the Jewish state. Rather, they came from the most influential newspaper in the United States (along with the New York Times), which trumpets its objectivity. This is the authoritative voice of the media establishment. This is what people in the know are expected to believe.


    Stephen Sniegoski

    • Chu
      March 17, 2010, 6:30 pm

      Obama may be smarter than most, and we’ll see where things stand in 3 weeks time.
      I hope he’s gonna ride this pig into 2011.

    • Shingo
      March 18, 2010, 5:05 am

      “The Post is very much disturbed about “Mr. Obama’s quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government”‘

      It’s backfiring. The comments section is full of Israeli criticism.

  8. Taxi
    March 17, 2010, 5:34 pm

    Yikes! The people have begun to see the Emperor is naked.

    • Mooser
      March 17, 2010, 5:47 pm

      Doesn’t matter if the Emperor is naked, as long as he’s ripped, and had has recent electrolysis.

  9. Taxi
    March 17, 2010, 7:09 pm

    Israel’s playing with fire:

    link to

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