Two American scholars have reopened the debate on the power of the so-called Israel lobby over the US Government.

Earlier this year the two university professors created a controversy when they wrote that the pro-Israel lobby exerted too much influence over US foreign policy.

On Monday they repeated their claims and said the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon was yet another example of what they viewed 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 US Government’s unstinting support for Israel’s recent war in Lebanon once again placed the agenda of what they called the Israel lobby ahead of US strategic interests.

The result, they said, was that the US position in the Middle East, already strained due to the Iraq occupation, had worsened with consequences that would not just be bad for the US but for Israel as well.

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

“Two, Iran and Syria have even more reason to keep the US pinned down in Iraq so it (Iran) is not attacked by US troops,” he said.

“Three, Iran has more reason than ever to acquire nuclear weapons so it can deter an Israeli or US attack on its homeland.”

Professors 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 how the lobby had warped US policy. It was the same point they made in their essay, headed The Israel Lobby, which was published in March in the London Review of Books.

They blamed the 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.

A spokesperson for AIPAC said the organisation had not commented on the two professors’ criticisms.

Professor Walt said he and Professor 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 US policy debates, the reaction had typically been heated.

“(Still), 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,” Professor Walt said.


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