You need to make two corrections.
#1 The UCSA bills did *not* have different votes, they were voted on as a package.
The voting results you say are for the bill called "Resolution Toward Socially Responsible Investment at the University of California" were actually a misvote. There was a vote on whether to vote on the bills together, and some student reps were confused, thought they were still "voting on whether to vote together," when that motion had already passed and they were supposed to be voting on the actual legislation. There was a re-vote to clear things up, which is where you get the results 9-1-6. Neither bill was considered by itself, ever.
Source: I was there. You can also check twitter!
#2 The second bill does not call for divesting from the Israeli government. It calls on divesting from the other countries, yes, because the UC has bonds invested in their governments. It does NOT have investments in Israeli government bonds. Regarding Israel, the text of the bill talks about companies like caterpillar, which are complicit in human rights violations.
Also, as an aside, the second bill was not written by SJP or anyone affiliated with the movement. It was written by rep Rebecca Ora, by herself, who is a liberal zionist.
Source: I have the text of the bill.
I agree that the Lobby was, as you say, one of a number of major factors. My interest in writing this piece was to discuss those other factors, not to negate the lobby.
With regard to the buffer, my understanding has always been that the administration saw Israel as a reliable, if not completely trustworthy, bulwark against the USSR that helped crush Nasser, served as a weapons cache, bought US arms, etc (as detailed even by W&M). Some of that logic has since disappeared, for sure.
Historically, the US calculation (in my opinion, a wrongheaded one) has been that through military force, diplomacy and co-option it can control revolutionary nationalism in its favor. To be fair that strategy worked very well up until the Arab Spring, and the US is now doing what it can to control the outcome of an ill-conceived policy that only kicked the bucket down the road vis-a-vis nationalist rage. I'm not saying it was a good calculation to make. I think it is ignorant, immoral, and above all shortsighted, but it was a calculation none the less.
If I had my resources in front of me I could talk more at length about the Suez Crisis, but I have always thought (though I am open to your explanation) that the Eisenhower Administration's concerns were 1) continuing to attempt to woo an increasingly hard-to-get and conniving Nasser, who was always more interested in getting the British out of the ME than the USSR, and 2) preempting the backlash that would ensue if the US let the attack continue while the USSR intervened to save the day, effectively pushing the Arabs into the USSR orbit and crushing any hopes for an anti-USSR alliance. At the same time, Nixon famously said, "We couldn't on one hand, complain about the Soviets intervening in Hungary and, on the other hand, approve of the British and the French picking that particular time to intervene against Nasser."
Generally speaking the US was still trying to forge a relationship with Egypt at the time, to isolate the USSR.
In 1973, it was the USSR that supplied and then resupplied Egypt and Syria with weapons. Israel asked the US to do the same for them, and the US agreed, not wanting to see its Cold War ally falter. So perhaps it wasnt so much the idea of the "buffer" against revolutionary nationalism as it was a buffer against further Soviet influence on the ME.
Lastly, it has always been my impression (confirmed by the majority of comments on this thread) that a strong percentage MW readers agree with the all-powerful, or at least, almost all-powerful, Lobby thesis. You might have a different impression. I don't think Phil's personal opinions, which as far as my conversation with him has gone sways heavily in one direction, constitute the party line. I think it's created by the community. In any event it was that particular thesis I was responding to, and it's been a very interesting reaction.