Two scholars who created a controversy earlier this year when they wrote that the pro-Israel lobby exerted too much influence over U.S. foreign policy said Monday that the recent Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon was yet another example of what they view as a dangerous tendency.

John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political science professor, and Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, said the U.S. government’s unstinting support for Israel’s recent war in Lebanon once again placed the agenda of what they call the Israel lobby ahead of U.S. strategic interests.

The result, they said, was that the U.S. position in the Middle East, already strained due to the Iraq War, had worsened with consequences that wouldn’t just be bad for America, but Israel as well.

“One, Iran and Syria are more likely to continue arming and supporting Hezbollah,” Mearsheimer said.

“Two, Iran and Syria have even more reason to keep the U.S. pinned down in Iraq so it’s not attacked by U.S. troops,” he said. “Three, Iran has more reason than ever to acquire nuclear weapons so it can deter an Israeli or U.S. attack on its homeland.”

Mearsheimer and Walt, who appeared at an event hosted by the Council on American Islamic Relations, singled out the American-Israel Public Affairs Council as the leading example of the how the lobby has warped U.S. policy. It was the same point they made in their essay called “The Israel Lobby” that was published in March in the London Review of Books.

They blamed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby, for a failed attempt to slightly amend language in a pro-Israel House resolution to call on the warring parties to protect innocent civilians and infrastructure. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., were among a group of lawmakers who supported such a change, Mearsheimer said. . .

Walt said he and Mearsheimer had expected their essay to be controversial because when others had made similar observations in the past about the pro-Israel lobby’s political power in U.S. policy debates, the reaction has typically been heated.

Still, Walt said, “… We were disappointed that much of the reaction consisted of attacks on our characters or on extraneous issues rather than on a serious discussion of our main argument. … We really didn’t say anything that was all that controversial, that wasn’t common knowledge inside the Beltway . . .

“So it wasn’t what we said,” he continued. “It was rather that two card-carrying members of the mainstream foreign policy establishment with rather impeccable, even boring, middle-of-the-road credentials and absolutely no trace of anti-Semitic history, attitudes or behavior finally pointed out the elephant in the room.”

Walt said the two men are preparing a response to the numerous criticisms they have received in the months since their original article was published.


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