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Dueling Books Reignite Debate Over Israeli Lobby in United States

Two books examining the Israeli lobby in the U.S., "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," and "The Deadliest Lies," present opposing views on Israel's influence among U.S. policymakers. Authors John Mearsheimer and Abraham Foxman detail their stances.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    A year ago, two American political scientists raised a storm with an article asserting that Israel and its supporters in the United States have far too much influence over American policy. The fight is still going on now in the pages of two books.

    "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" is the work of John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Steven Walt, a professor at Harvard. They argue that Israel enjoys an extraordinary level of U.S. support that is now proving a, quote, "strategic liability," closed quote, to U.S. interests in the world. And this outside support, they say, is, quote, "due largely to the political power of the Israel lobby, led by groups like the American-Israel political action committee, or AIPAC.

    "The Deadliest Lies" is the title of a rebuttal book by Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. He calls the Mearsheimer-Walt book "explosive and inflammatory" and says it is based on, quote, "half-truths, distortions and falsehoods."

    We bring the two together now, Professor Mearsheimer joining me here, and Mr. Foxman in New York. And welcome to you both.

    John Mearsheimer, first, before we really get into this, define your term. What do you mean by "Israel lobby"?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: The Israel lobby, Margaret, is a loose coalition of individuals and groups who worked actively to push American foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. It's an American interest group along the lines of the National Rifle Association or the American Association for Retired People.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So what's your evidence that it is distorting American foreign policy in a way that is jeopardizing U.S. security and that it has the degree of influence that it can do so?

  • JOHN MEARSHEIMER:

    Well, probably the best example would be U.S. policy on the settlements in the occupied territories. Every American president since Lyndon Johnson in 1967 has opposed, at least officially opposed, the building of settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    Nevertheless, no American president has been able to put any serious pressure on the Israelis to stop that settlement-building. even though there's lots of evidence that that has been one of the principal reasons that the United States is deeply disliked around the world, and it is one of the causes — not the only cause — but one of the causes of our terrorism problem.

    And the reason, of course, that no president can put any meaningful pressure on the Israelis is because of the Israel lobby.

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