The first time that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their argument – that only the political influence of a powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington can explain decades of “unconditional” support for Israel and a misguided foreign policy in the Middle East – they faced a torrent of criticism.
This time – with the publication of their book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy – they face the same criticism. But this time, they have come prepared with a defense.
Mearsheimer, distinguished professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard and past academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government, came out last night in Washington with a robust defense for their own motivation in challenging unflinching U.S. support for Israel in the face of that nation’s “brutal” treatment of Palestinians and other Arab adversaries.
They are not denying Israel’s right to exist, they maintain, flatly rejecting any contention that anti-Semitism motivates their argument. Indeed, they believe that the U.S. should stand in the way of anyone seeking to destroy Israel. Yet, if the United States is to play the role of peace-broker for the Israelis and Palestinians – a role that the U.S. is uniquely positioned to play – it must start confronting both sides with an “even-handed” foreign policy, holding both accountable for unacceptable behavior.
After more than an hour of scholarly argument before an overflow audience packing the aisles of an overheated Politics and Prose bookstore – standing-room-only doesn’t adequately describe a crowd so thick that paramedics were summoned for a man who fell faint – Mearsheimer finally put it all in plain English:
“States do stupid things,” said Mearsheimer, perhaps the most renowned “realist” in modern American political science. And when they do, he said, reasoning people in other places need to hold them accountable for “knuckle-headed” behavior.
“What we really need to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is for the United States to act even-handedly,” Mearsheimer told the evening crowd at the Washington bookstore. “The United States need to be even-handed and put pressure on both sides.” (MORE)