As I’ve indicated, Professors Mearsheimer and Walt rely upon an overblown drumbeat of Israel’s alleged misdeeds and unfairly one-sided argumentation. Yet they are largely correct in observing that “the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel…. Unconditional support for Israel makes it easier for extremists to rally popular support and to attract recruits.”
The notion that US support for Israel is “unconditional” is wrong, but this perception is a liability for the US among Arab and Muslim countries. Although the paper is flawed on scholarly grounds, the bottomline is reasonable: The US gained some strategic advantage from Israel during the Cold War, but now suffer Israel as an undue burden in its foreign policy, and the power and influence of the pro-Israel lobby sometimes inhibits the ability of the US to foster peace with the Palestinians.
Still, the US has often voiced disagreements with Israel on settlement expansion and the route of the security barrier (modified somewhat due to US pressure). The good professors apparently forget that peace-making requires efforts on the Palestinian side as well, but it is reasonable that a more engaged and neutral honest-broker role for the US may be in the interests of both the US and Israel, in trying harder to achieve peace. And the enthusiasm of so many Jewish organizations and Israelis for invading Iraq, although not a crime, is an embarrassment.
If these scholars’ attitudes become typical of most Americans, Israel’s special relationship, including its status as the number one recipient of US foreign aid, would come to an end. The United States would not be overtly hostile, but we might return to the coolness of, say, the Eisenhower years.
Since Israel’s enemies no longer have a superpower patron like the old Soviet Union, this need not be a disaster. Yet the threat of such a change might give Prime Minister Olmert pause to rethink his current illusion about unilaterally dictating Israel’s final borders. Not that peace with the Palestinians can ever be a foregone conclusion — especially in this time of Hamas ascendency — but it would be in Israel’s interest to bolster the status of Pres. Mahmoud Abbas and to allow back-channel dealings, or efforts at mediation, to attempt to transform Hamas.
This links to an insightfully critical look at Mearsheimer and Walt by Christopher Hitchens, someone who has never been known as an apologist for Israel.
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