Is the Israeli lobby that powerful?

Question: Mearsheimer and Walt: are they right about the Israel lobby?


Dennis Ross: You know at a certain level, there are so many claims they make that are so ludicrous, that are so divorced from reality that you almost tend to dismiss it. Because they create an illusion that they have based it on reality, but it’s totally divorced from reality. They don’t have a fact-based approach. They have an ideologically-driven approach. They may criticize the Bush administration, and I do as well for an ideologically-driven set of assessments and an ideologically-driven policy.

But theirs is an opposite policy that is also ideologically driven, and the facts and reality never intrude. They make a major case that it was the Israeli lobby that basically drove us into war – the prime decision that drove us into war in Iraq. Well the Israeli lobby was far more preoccupied with Iran than they were with Iraq. I mean if President [George W.] Bush isn’t president, we don’t go to war in Iraq. If Vice President Gore becomes president in the year 2000, even though he’s the one with a long history of very close ties to the “Israeli lobby”, we don’t go to war in Iraq.

So what’s decisive here? Was it the Israeli lobby, or who was president? They say it was the Israeli lobby that is . . . that’s the reason we never opposed the Israeli settlement activity. It’s just not true. I mean the fact of the matter is our approach on settlements could have been much harder than it was. Was it because of the Israeli lobby ________? No.

In our case in the [Bill] Clinton administration, I can tell you. We had Prime Minister Rabin say to us, “I’m going to change things on settlement activity, but I can’t go as far as you might want because the fact is I’m going to take big steps, and I need the political space to do it. And the political traffic won’t bear my taking on too much at one time.” So basically we cut him some slack on that. Now the fact that he was assassinated by someone who came out of the Religious National Settler Movement suggested that maybe he knew what he was talking about. Ehud Barrack said to us, “I’m going to withdraw from almost all the territory. I’m going to settle the whole conflict. The Palestinians will have a state. Now don’t push me prematurely on the settlement issue because you’ll undercut the political strength I need to take those big decisions.” You can disagree with our judgment, but those are the reasons we made it, not because the Israeli lobby was asking us to do it. I’ve said when I was a negotiator, there’s never a single decision we made because the Israeli lobby wanted us to do it. And there’s never a single decision we didn’t make because they didn’t want us to do it. So it isn’t to say: Is there a lobby for Israel? You bet. Are they effective? Yes. Are they decisive when it comes to the Executive branch? Absolutely not.

I had one exchange with Stephen Walt where he quoted; because this is what they do. They quote political leaders like the President Clinton and Newt Gingrich saying how strong AIPAC is. Well they made these statements when they were giving speeches at AIPAC! Now how often do political leaders go to any lobbying group and say, “Gee, you’re not strong. You’re not effective.”

But this is what they cite as a kind of proof. That’s why I say there’s a kind of ludicrous quality to it.


Recorded on: September 12, 2007


Mearshimer and Walt's book on the Israeli lobby has an ideologically-driven, rather than fact-based approach, says Ross.

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.

PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less