M.J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis at the Israel Policy Forum, penned a piece last week that asks people to not be so knee-jerk about “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” whose authors argue, Rosenberg wrote, that the pro-Israel community’s advocacy is not always in the best interest of Israel or the United States.
I spent almost 20 years as a Congressional aide and can testify from repeated personal experience that Senators and House Members are under constant pressure to support status quo policies on Israel. It is no accident that Members of Congress compete over who can place more conditions on aid to the Palestinians, who will be first to denounce the Saudi peace plan, and who will win the right to be the primary sponsor of the next pointless Palestinian-bashing resolution. Nor is it an accident that there is never a serious Congressional debate about policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, every President knows that any serious effort to push for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement based on compromise by both sides will produce loud (sometimes hysterical) opposition from the Hill.
Walt and Mearsheimer mostly limit themselves to exploring whether all this is good for the United States (and to a lesser extent, Israel). The question I ask today, and not for the first time, is whether this type of behavior is good for Israel. Forty years after the Six Day War, the occupation continues, the resistance to it intensifies, and Israelis in increasing numbers question whether they have a future in the Jewish state. Has “pro-Israel” advocacy consistently produced “pro-Israel” ends? At several critical moments, it most certainly has not.
Read those occasions here. There have, of course, been plenty who disagree with the possibility that Walt and Mearsheimer are philo-Semitic, constructively critical observers. But Rosenberg makes an important point, the same one actually that legendary muckraker Seymour Hersh made when I interviewed him for a piece that will run in The Jewish Journal next week. “This government and that relationship is really profound,” Hersh said, “and it is just very secret between us and Israel. It is not transparent, and that is not healthy for anybody.”