Thanks to the work of the lobby and its allies, Israel gets more direct foreign aid -- about $3 billion a year -- than any other nation. There's a file cabinet somewhere in the State Department full of memoranda of understanding on military, diplomatic and economic affairs. Israel gets treated like a NATO member when it comes to military matters and like Canada or Mexico when it comes to free trade. There's an annual calendar full of meetings of joint strategic task forces and other collaborative sessions. And there's a presidential pledge, re-avowed by Bush in the East Room, that the United States will come to Israel's aid in the event of attack.
On Capitol Hill the Israel lobby commands large majorities in both the House and Senate. Polls show strong public support for Israel -- a connection that has grown even deeper after the September 11 attacks. The popular equation goes like this: Israelis equal good guys, Arabs equal terrorists. Working the Hill these days, says Josh Block, spokesman for the premier Israeli lobbying group known as AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "is like pushing at an open door."
Not everyone believes this is a good thing. In March two distinguished political scientists -- Stephen Walt from Harvard and John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago -- published a 42-page, heavily footnoted essay arguing that the Bush administration's support for Israel and its related effort to spread democracy throughout the Middle East have "inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security."
The professors claim that our intimate partnership with Israel is both dangerous and unprecedented. "Other special interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest," they argue. They go on to say that the war in Iraq "was due in large part to the Lobby's influence," and that the same combine is "using all of the strategies in its playbook" to pressure the administration into being aggressive and belligerent with Iran. The bottom line: "Israel's enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding and paying."
A sweet deal for Israel, in other words, but a very bad one for America.