Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/maxwrite/diarypage.php?did=4607
October 10, 2007
Book Review of The Israel Lobby: it's long, but NOT as long as the book is...
By Eileen Fleming
The following report was written by Israeli Daniel Levy, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation. Levy has worked in the Prime Minister's Office as special adviser and head of the Jerusalem Affairs, as a senior policy adviser to former Israeli Minister of Justice, he has been a member of the official Israeli delegation to the Taba negotiations with the Palestinians in January 2001, served on the negotiating team to the "Oslo B" Agreement, as an analyst for the International Crisis Group Middle East Program and was the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative; a blue print to the way to justice and peace in Israel Palestine.
Daniel Levy wrote:
I am convinced that the relationship between the US, Israel and the lobby that speaks in its name needs to change for everyone’s sake, that this book contributes to a re-think and that the authors are not driven by prejudice.
A key distinction to draw for instance is that it is not Israel per se that has become a strategic liability for the US, but rather Israel as an occupier (which is indeed, a liability to itself). To quote Walt and Mearsheimer, “if the conflict were resolved, Israel might become the sort of strategic asset that its supporters often claim it is.”
I am not an American Jew (despite the valiant and appreciated efforts of Matt Yglesias to enfranchise me as such). I can at best empathize with the sensitivities of American Jews and the raw nerves that the book and the debate surrounding it have touched. Some of the commentary, including from people I respect, admire and personally like – JJ Goldberg, Jeffrey Goldberg and Leonard Fein (I had to find a non-Goldberg) for example, pushes back powerfully against the book and comes from a place that is undoubtedly sincere and, I believe, often emotional. It is an emotive subject for me also, but my emotions are those of an Israeli (by choice admittedly) who has witnessed the devastating consequences of the lobby-mediated US policy towards Israel, on our ability to build an Israel of hope, peace, decency and dare I say, longevity.
Without himself being an Israeli, my friend MJ Rosenberg probably captures the essence of this position best when he writes: “There is nothing pro-Israel about supporting policies that promise only that Israeli mothers will continue to dread their sons’ 18th birthdays for another generation.”
Some of the commentary, by the way, has just been plain shoddy – a word hurled too often at Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer. Leslie Gelb, reviewing the book in the NY Times is the most disappointing and inexcusable example of this. Gelb for instance claims that the official American policy against settlements and in favor of a Palestinian state proves the limitations of the lobby. Hardly! If anything it suggests the opposite – 40 years and over 400,000 Israelis living beyond the green line later – there is perhaps a disconnect and might this not require an explanation.
Understandably, Walt and Mearsheimer’s chapter about the Iraq war has drawn the most fire and ire – and with no small degree of justification. Yes, as Leonard Fein argues, the book does go too far in conflating the Israel lobby with neocons. But that act of conflating does not exist only in the minds of Walt and Mearsheimer. As I argue, the mainstream lobby allowed itself to be co-opted and it moved so far to the right and made such dubious alliances, that the co-option gave the impression of being almost seamless.
Yes, the ingredients of Middle East policy post 9/11 are characterized by elements of exceptionalism, not just continuity. But Israel and the lobby speaking in its name, out-sourced their policy to neo-cons (and even the Christian Right and also Islamo-phobes) with devastating effect. And Walt and Mearsheimer are not to blame for this unfortunate reality.
The more important challenges though concern the future. Freedom’s Watch and the push for a military attack on Iran has an eerie familiarity about it. Just look at who the prime donor and mover behind Freedom’s Watch is – Sheldon Adelson – close ally of Bibi Netanyahu who has poured millions into a pro-Bibi daily paper in Israel (read this Jim Lobe piece for more).
Will Jewish and non-Jewish Americans who care about and understand the connection between American security, Middle East stability and Israeli well-being stand up, speak out and be a counter-weight this time?
Ok, here goes – the full book review:
Authors Website: http://www.wearewideawake.org
Eileen is the Reporter and Editor of
Producer of "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
She has been to Israel Palestine five times since June 2005.