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on 3 April 2012
A really sound and constructive analysis of the relationship between the United States and Israel. However, the concluding argument is not necessarily one which you would expect.

The authors cover many topics such as the military, diplomatic, financial and legal aid handed to Israel by the United States over the years. This has ranged from the latest military technology to simple aid to loans which are not expected to be repaid.... ever !! This is a condition they would not accept from the United Kingdom.

However, the most intriguing aspect of the work is just how much the US has been prepared to accept from their "strategic" ally, or is it how little ?? There is documented evidence of how Israel regularly sells on US arms and technology to nations not quite suited to US foreign policy, including China. There is also quite a large amount of data on how much support Israel receives in Congress with the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) being particularly influential in the forming of US foreign policy.

The book has further dimensions which you will need to explore yourself and I would certainly recommend it to anyone with a historical interest in international relations.
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on 27 March 2009
Walt and Mearsheimer have done the public-in the US and elsewhere-a service by writing about what has been,for far too long,a taboo subject.
Contrary to what some reviewers say,their account of the Israel lobby starts from the view that there is nothing wrong in individuals or groups who support Israel lobbying and trying to persuade politicians,the press or the public of the rightness of their views.It is US democracy in action,good old-fashioned politics,and everyone else does it.It's almost impossible to read an article about US politics which doesn't discuss the farm lobby,the labour lobby,the banking lobby or whatever other lobby.
The problem is that there is,in effect,no opposition to the Israel lobby (not all of whom are Jewish,as the authors point out).Any "Arab lobby" or "Palestinian lobby" in the USA is pathetically weak and poor in comparison with pro-Israeli groups.So,the most extreme and confrontational policies of the Israeli government are tolerated,supported or,at most,attract verbal displeasure from the US government-there's no benefit in supporting Palestinians,no loss in supporting Israel.Same with the financial munificence of the US taxpayers to Israel.
Great work of political analysis,and ignore the cries of "anti-Semitism" you may sometimes hear directed at this book.The authors point out that particular canard has been used so frequently and so loosely by pro-Israeli apologists as their response to anything and anybody that opposes anything the Israeli goverment does.
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on 16 April 2009
After first reviewing the extent of US financial and non-financial support for Israel, the authors ask whether Israel is a strategic asset or liability for the USA. They consider a number of arguments:

Helping contain the Soviet bear - relevant during the Cold War but not after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They give the example of the first Gulf War where any Israeli involvement would have been seriously damaging to US interests.

Partners against terror - the authors point out that US support for Israel is itself a prime cause for terrorism directed against US interests.

Confronting rogue states - they remind us that the states usually mentioned present no direct threat to the USA and that US support for Israel makes it harder to deal with rogue states.

Having decided that supporting Israel damages the USA, the authors evaluate whether moral considerations require American support for Israel notwithstanding. After doing so, they conclude that the moral case for the USA to support Israel is not currently justified, regardless of the arguments either way in 1947.

It would be easy to believe that US support for Israel is achieved by a conspiracy, with secret arrangements made in darkened rooms. The authors demonstrate that exactly the opposite is true. The Israel lobby operates in the full glare of publicity; there is no conspiracy.

The book shows how American supporters of Israel organise their campaigning efforts, raise money, lobby politicians and also dominate debate in the media and amongst think tanks. This is achieved by many people dedicating their time and money to promoting the cause of Israel. The authors point out that in a democracy a narrowly focused interest group can often get its way; a small number of Americans are passionate about Israel while the overwhelming majority are relatively indifferent either way. Accordingly, politicians find it helpful to appease the Israel lobby; safe in the knowledge that their doing so will not result in any meaningful loss of support from the rest of the population.

The book examines in detail how the lobby operates. One statistic stands out. Between 1990 and 2004, pro-Israel groups contributed nearly $57 million to candidates and parties while Arab American and Muslim Political Action Committees contributed slightly less than $800,000.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2009
Recently I have read several books on Henry Kissinger and I was intrigued by the position of Israel in 1973. With the Yom Kippur War the `complacency of invincibility' was shattered. Confidence has subsequently been eroded amid relentless low and high intensity violence, nasty and cruel. Militarily the Israeli Defence Force has lost the initiative. Pursuing policies of "lebensraum and untermenschen" respect for Israel has declined precipitously. The Israeli and Jewish response has been to create a "very special relationship" with the United States. Since 1976 Israel became the largest annual recipient of American military assistance, a position it has retained since. US diplomatic backing is almost unconditional. Yet Americans "recognize that support for Israel is one of the main causes of anti-Americanism around the world "(p10). This book is a review of this complex, controversial and emotional relationship. It is worth remembering that the American Jewish population is estimated to be 5 to 6m, about 2% while in Israeli the Jewish population is c 5.5m (just 75% of the total). Here is the paradox, such a small number of people having such a massive impact on international politics.

This is a fascinating and informative academic essay, it is not anti Semitic and should not be shouted down which it has. To start with the conclusion nothing done by the Lobby is wrong per se, largely in the open and within the Constitution they exert pressure to advance their own interests. The Lobby is very well organised, any US congressional politician is risking electoral suicide if they oppose Israeli interests. Has the United States become a client state of Israel; is this the sort of plural politics the Founding Fathers envisaged?

The book explains how the "Lobby" (a crude term for a "loose coalition of individuals and groups" ....p viii, and well defined in Chapter 4) have regrouped and responded essentially post 1973. Equally it shows how the political structure of United States has been compromised by aggressive ideological activists, well funded and organised. Mearsheimer & Walt explain the mechanics, this not a conspiracy theory it is about the US political process. Read the book to form your own opinion but it allows you to answer three questions: is the Israeli Lobby good for America, is it good for Israel and will it secure an equitable peace in the Middle East. This is not just Jewish politics; the Lobby encompasses the Radical right, Neocons, Christian fundamentalists and Christian Zionists. Collectively they see a world most of us do not accept, many of their arguments are dishonest, devious or dangerously partisan. For me the analysis says much about the failure of alternative lobbies (the Arabs, American big business interests) to counter the Israeli voice and an absence of any counterweight opposition. "America's intimate embrace of Israel... is not making America any safer or more prosperous. To the contrary unconditional support for Israel is undermining relations with other US allies, casting doubt over America's moral vision, helping inspire a generation of anti American extremists" (p 77). The book deals with politics but also the economic and moral aspects.

The Lobby comprises enthusiasts/extremists. That's true of most lobbies, animal rights through to NRA etc etc. What the authors illustrate is the impossibility of an objective debate within the US political system that is critical of Israel and an acceptance of the Israeli agenda determining the US response in the Middle East and beyond. Israel, as we are always reminded, is a democracy but one that through their electoral system gives a disproportionately loud voice to radicals, hard liners, and the crazies. Has the Israeli Lobby marginalised intelligent, compassionate liberal Jewish opinion? Apply common sense "the minority was permitted to speak for the mass and become the dominant voice of Jewish politics " (p126). That is the tragedy. I found their conclusion to be well argued and a positive agenda for change but - as the authors indicate - an unrealistic one.
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on 25 January 2008
In 2006, John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote an essay in the London Review of Books on the Israel lobby. This generated a huge controversy, so they wrote this book to provide more evidence for their claim that the lobby harms US and Israeli interests.

Chapter 1 details the US state's aid to Israel: $154 billion, mostly grants, 75% military. Israel is the largest recipient of US aid ($500 per person per year), even though Israel ranks 29th in the world by income.

Chapter 2 asks whether Israel is a strategic asset to the USA, and concludes that it may have been during the Cold War, but is now a liability. Chapter 3 asks whether the US state backs Israel because of their shared values, or because Israel is `for peace', and answers no to both. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 examine the lobby's members, activities, funding and its influence on policy-making in Washington and on the public through the media and academia.

Part II studies the lobby's role in shaping recent US policy in the Middle East, and its effects. Chapter 7 examines the lobby's hostility to the Palestinians and shows how it has neutered any hints of US support for the two-state solution. Chapter 8 looks at how the lobby, among others, urged the disastrous attack on Iraq. Chapter 9 examines the lobby's hostility to negotiations with Syria and Chapter 10 looks at its threats to Iran.

Chapter 11 studies the US state's unconditional support for Israel's attack on Lebanon. War supporters lied that US policy `reflected the will of the American people', but most Americans did not back the war, though the Clintons did.

Finally, in Chapter 12 the authors note that US interests are to keep the oil flowing, discourage the spread of WMD and reduce anti-US terrorism. Current US policies, promoted by the lobby, fuel anti-Americanism, increase the terrorist threat and encourage the spread of WMD.

These policies have not been in either US or Israeli interests. As the authors write, "Enabling Israel's refusal to recognize the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations has not made Israel safer." Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates wants any change in US Middle East policy. All uncritically support Israel.

The authors propose a better policy: withdraw US forces from the Middle East and press Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestine. They urge the USA to treat Israel as a normal state, reduce its aid dramatically, and oppose its settlement policy and apartheid `wall'. Mearsheimer and Walt make a very good case that the Israel lobby is both effective and counter-productive. Perhaps we need a similar study of the Israel lobby in Britain?
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This book that has its origins in 2002, before getting published in 2008 in paperback, is a must read for those who want to understand how US Foreign Policy operates. Although the book was published in August 2007, it is still relevant today, especially with growing tensions with Iran and Syria, alongside the Arab Spring.

Who are the Israel Lobby? What is the aim of the Israel Lobby? Who funds the Israel Lobby? Why does the American taxpayer fork out billions in Aid to Israel, who are supposedly one of the richest nations in the world? Is the Israel Lobby one unified bloc, or a mixture of different groups and organisations?

The book answers questions along those lines - and many more - and the authors are not shy in putting forward the sources and evidence. Critics call it "anti-Semitic" but it is far from it. The word Anti-Semitic, like the word Racist, is used, abused and thrown around to silence critics and close off any debate. Sadly for them, the ad hominem attacks don't work. In fact the authors recognise Israel but believe in taking a different path as opposed to previous and current US administrations.

A very good starter book for those who want to find out WHO the Israel Lobby are. Heavily recommended.
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on 20 April 2010
The book discusses the influence of the Israel lobby on the American decision-making bodies and key figures.

Notice here that I use the expression ''the Israel Lobby'', not ''Jewish Lobby'', and the reason is simple: out of around 75 Jewish pressure groups active in the American political realm, only a small number of them stand adamantly for Israel's 'right' to do whatever she prefers, and cracks down on any attempt to even criticize the Jewish state. The rest of the groups, although pro-Israel, maintain a more balanced attitude towads the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They basically lean towards a two-state solution, and on several occasions step out to 'timidly' criticize Israel's practices in the Occupied Territories.

The book impressively outlines the influence of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on the American decision-making wether in the Congress or in the Oval Office. Despite the fact that the writers argue that Israel has a legitimate right to exist and live in peace and security, they raise the most critical question of whether American generous support of Israel is by any means justified.

The book cleverly analyzes the scope of the American-Israeli relations from a historical and political perspective, and to what extent America's unconditional (declared and undeclared) financial & military aids to Israel fan the growing anti-US terrorism, and how that endangers both American and Israeli security.

Sporadic points that seem vague in the American foreign policy and the US relations with Israel are logically connected in this book, making it easier for a political observer to correctly lay down the political puzzle pieces.

The book is objective, sharp and very clever...and of course, despite their pro-Israel opinions, the writers have been labeled anti-semitic.
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on 26 June 2010
For anyone frustrated at the way America's real 'special relationship' - the one with Israel -impacts us all, then this is the book is for you. It fills in all the blanks to illustrate how a small minority can leverage a Superpower. There is no conspiracy theory here, it's shown to be just sheer determination on the part of a single-issue lobby to sustain their influence and oppose in any way any free debate on the Middle East. For a comparatively small amount of money, (mere millions of dollars), and an hierarchy of activists willing to dedicate themselves to the cause - billions of dollars of aid, mountains of munitions and most importantly, diplomatic immunity are purchased. One shock is to find it a prerequisite to survival in American politics that you either accept the lobby's 'protection' or suffer the consequences. It's brutal but so effective. It's also an eye-opener to realise that even presidents rarely have the strength to dare to act independently. A modest swing-vote is all it takes to change governments and the lobby can achieve this.

The level of attention to detail is scrupulous - the last hundred pages are entirely given over to references - while the analysis unfolds in a readable and often compelling manner. Several readings would be required to fully do the research justice.

The writers save their one note of optimism till the very end, arguing that academia can offer the 'freedom of speech' that is denied elsewhere. This is less than convincing, particularly as earlier in the book they illustrated how even US campus life can be manipulated through control of college funding and student action. One encouraging point, though, was how the lobby's reflex use of the 'anti-semite' card is finally losing some of its power to deter debate. But overall this book will undermine the faith most of us have in the integrity of democracy.

The real enemy of Palestine is clearly not the American people - statistics here illustrate a surprising lack of hatred amongst Arab populations - it is American policy. One is left wondering if Hezbollah had the reach and emulated Mossad, would those pulling the strings of US Middle East policy have something to wake them up to the realities of forty years of politiking in death and destruction. The truth is they seem set to remain unaccountable to anything more threatening than an excoriating work like this.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2009
Recently I have read several books on Henry Kissinger and I was intrigued by the position of Israel in 1973. With the Yom Kippur War the `complacency of invincibility' was shattered. Confidence has subsequently been eroded amid relentless low and high intensity violence, nasty and cruel. Militarily the Israeli Defence Force has lost the initiative. Pursuing policies of "lebensraum and untermenschen" respect for Israel has declined precipitously. The Israeli and Jewish response has been to create a "very special relationship" with the United States. Since 1976 Israel became the largest annual recipient of American military assistance, a position it has retained since. US diplomatic backing is almost unconditional. Yet Americans "recognize that support for Israel is one of the main causes of anti-Americanism around the world "(p10). This book is a review of this complex, controversial and emotional relationship. It is worth remembering that the American Jewish population is estimated to be 5 to 6m, about 2% while in Israeli the Jewish population is c 5.5m (just 75% of the total). Here is the paradox, such a small number of people having such a massive impact on international politics.

This is a fascinating and informative academic essay, it is not anti Semitic and should not be shouted down which it has. To start with the conclusion nothing done by the Lobby is wrong per se, largely in the open and within the Constitution they exert pressure to advance their own interests. The Lobby is very well organised, any US congressional politician is risking electoral suicide if they oppose Israeli interests. Has the United States become a client state of Israel; is this the sort of plural politics the Founding Fathers envisaged?

The book explains how the "Lobby" (a crude term for a "loose coalition of individuals and groups" ....p viii, and well defined in Chapter 4) have regrouped and responded essentially post 1973. Equally it shows how the political structure of United States has been compromised by aggressive ideological activists, well funded and organised. Mearsheimer & Walt explain the mechanics, this not a conspiracy theory it is about the US political process. Read the book to form your own opinion but it allows you to answer three questions: is the Israeli Lobby good for America, is it good for Israel and will it secure an equitable peace in the Middle East. This is not just Jewish politics; the Lobby encompasses the Radical right, Neocons, Christian fundamentalists and Christian Zionists. Collectively they see a world most of us do not accept, many of their arguments are dishonest, devious or dangerously partisan. For me the analysis says much about the failure of alternative lobbies (the Arabs, American big business interests) to counter the Israeli voice and an absence of any counterweight opposition. "America's intimate embrace of Israel... is not making America any safer or more prosperous. To the contrary unconditional support for Israel is undermining relations with other US allies, casting doubt over America's moral vision, helping inspire a generation of anti American extremists" (p 77). The book deals with politics but also the economic and moral aspects.

The Lobby comprises enthusiasts/extremists. That's true of most lobbies, animal rights through to NRA etc etc. What the authors illustrate is the impossibility of an objective debate within the US political system that is critical of Israel and an acceptance of the Israeli agenda determining the US response in the Middle East and beyond. Israel, as we are always reminded, is a democracy but one that through their electoral system gives a disproportionately loud voice to radicals, hard liners, and the crazies. Has the Israeli Lobby marginalised intelligent, compassionate liberal Jewish opinion? Apply common sense "the minority was permitted to speak for the mass and become the dominant voice of Jewish politics " (p126). That is the tragedy. I found their conclusion to be well argued and a positive agenda for change but - as the authors indicate - an unrealistic one.
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on 27 June 2013
I read this as extra background reading for my A-level Politics course, and found it to be hugely useful and interesting. I knew various bits on the topic but it is a really good background and filling-in-the-gaps type book for those interested in both the Middle East and American foreign policy.
The amount of unconditional US support for Israel is staggering and i had no idea of the extent until i read this, but what fascinated me most whilst reading are the reasons for this, and consequently just how much pressure is put on politicians to ensure a foreign policy stance which supports both Israel and the lobby. I believe the authors are pro-Israel, but they make a very good attempt to assess both sides of arguments but forward and therefore offere insightful analysis of the key issues.
The book is well-written and informative; my only criticism would be that in places it tends to become a bit listy (for example, various paragraphs just of names of people who support an argument etc) but generally i would definitely recommend this as a read for all budding politicians/historians, and you really don't need much prior knowledge of the Middle East to get something out of this book!
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