In This Review
"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"

"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"

By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

Faculty Research Working Paper No. RWP06-011, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2006, 82 pp.

Seldom have just over 40 pages of text (plus just under 40 pages of notes) kicked up such a storm. Attacked for everything from being "sloppy scholarship" to anti-Semitic, this article is clearly neither. It is an argument advanced by two scholars, both of the realist school of international relations, that "unwavering U.S. support for Israel" is not in the United States' national interest. The damaging misfit between pro-Israel U.S. policies and U.S. interests in the Middle East, they argue, is the fault of a number of domestic pressure groups -- which they lump together as "the Israel Lobby" -- spearheaded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Mearsheimer and Walt use realist national-interest analysis to deftly deconstruct the usual justifications for supporting Israel (that it is a fellow democracy, a strategic asset, or a tiny state in danger of being overwhelmed by its neighbors). They set out the role of that "Israel Lobby" in pushing for war against Iraq, and perhaps against other Middle Eastern regimes down the road.

May the storm kicked up by this article rage on. The role of pressure groups and lobbies in determining U.S. foreign policy is important. The U.S.-Israeli connection is important. The hardheaded analysis that Mearsheimer and Walt so cogently present cries out for careful consideration. It just might set in motion a useful paradigm shift in the United States' Middle East policy.