The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

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1 Indeed, the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about. But because Israel is a strategic and moral liability, it takes relentless political pressure to keep U.S. support intact. As Richard Gephardt, the former House Minority Leader, told the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), “Without [your] constant support . . . and all your fighting on a daily basis to strengthen that relationship, it would not be.” This quote was downloaded from the AIPAC website [] on January 12, 2004. Also see Michael Kinsley, “J’Accuse, Sort Of,” Slate, March 12, 2003.

2 According to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) “Greenbook,” which reports “overseas loans and grants,” Israel has received $140,142,800 (in constant 2003 dollars) from the United States through 2003. Downloaded from the “Greenbook” web site [] on November 8, 2005.

3 According to the “Greenbook,” Israel received about $3.7 billion in direct aid from the United States in 2003. Israel’s population according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies [IISS] and the CIA is 6,276,883. IISS, The Military Balance: 2005-2006 (Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2005), p. 192; That averages out to $589 per Israeli. If one assumes the same population size and $3 billion in total aid, then each Israeli receives $478.

4 See; World Bank Atlas (Washington, DC: Development Data Group, World Bank, September 2004), pp. 64-65.

5 For a discussion of the various special deals that Israel receives, see Clyde R. Mark, “Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance,” Issue Brief for Congress (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, April 26, 2005).

6 Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1991).

7 “Report of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council,” Annex III, U.N. General Assembly Official Records, 58th Session, Supplement No. 47, 2004, pp. 13-14; Donald Neff, “An Updated List of Vetoes Cast by the United States to Shield Israel from Criticism by the U.N. Security Council,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2005; Stephen Zunes, “U.S. Declares Open Season on UN Workers,”, January 10, 2003. There were also many resolutions that never came to a vote because Security Council members knew that the United States would veto them. Given the difficulty of criticizing specific Israeli actions in the Security Council, criticism has often come from the U.N. General Assembly, where no state has a veto. In those instances, the United States invariably finds itself on the short end of lopsided votes on the order of say 133-4, where the dissenters include Micronesia and the Marshall Islands as well as Israel and the United States. In response, the Forward reported in November 2003 that the Bush Administration, at the instigation of the American Jewish Committee, was “embarking on the most comprehensive campaign in years to reduce the number of anti-Israel resolutions routinely passed by the United Nations General Assembly.” Marc Perelman, “Washington Seeking to Reduce Number of Anti-Israel Votes at U.N.,” Forward, November 14, 2003.

8 Marc Perelman, “International Agency Eyes Israeli Nukes,” Forward, September 5, 2003.

9 William B. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict since 1967, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2005), chapters 5-7, 10-12.

10 Nathan Guttman, “U.S. Accused of Pro-Israel Bias at 2000 Camp David,” Ha’aretz, April 29, 2005. Also see Aaron D. Miller, “Israel’s Lawyer,” Washington Post, May 23, 2005; “Lessons of Arab-Israeli Negotiating: Four Negotiators Look Back and Ahead,” Transcript of panel discussion, Middle East Institute, April 25, 2005. For general discussions of how the United States consistently favors Israel over the Palestinians, see Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999); Kathleen Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001); Naseer H. Aruri, Dishonest Broker: The U.S. Role in Israel and Palestine (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003). It is also worth noting that the British favored the Zionists over the Palestinians during the period of the British Mandate (1919-1948). See Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (New York: Henry Holt, 2000).

11 Downloaded from AIPAC’s website [] on January 12, 2006.

12 See, for example, Warren Bass, Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the US-Israel Alliance (NY: Oxford University Press, 2003); A.F.K. Organski, The $36 Billion Bargain: Strategy and Politics in U.S. Assistance to Israel (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990); Steven L. Spiegel, “Israel as a Strategic Asset,” Commentary, June 1983, pp. 51- 55; Idem, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy, from Truman to Reagan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

13 This point was not lost on Moshe Dayan, who, remembering a talk he had with Henry Kissinger at the time of the October 1973 War, noted that “though I happened to remark that the United States was the only country that was ready to stand by us, my silent reflection was that the United States would really rather support the Arabs.” Moshe Dayan, Moshe Dayan: Story of My Life (NY: William Morrow, 1976), pp. 521-513. Also see Zach Levey, “The United States’ Skyhawk Sale to Israel, 1966: Strategic Exigencies of an Arms Deal,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 28, No. 2 (April 2004), pp.255-276.

14 Bernard Lewis wrote in 1992, “Whatever value Israel might have had as a strategic asset during the Cold War, that value obviously ended when the Cold War itself came to a close. The change was clearly manifested in the Gulf War last year, when what the United States most desired from Israel was to keep out of the conflict – to be silent, inactive and, as far as possible, invisible …. Israel was not an asset, but an irrelevance – some even said a nuisance. Some of the things that the Israeli government later said and did were unlikely to change this perception.” “Rethinking the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 71, No. 4, (Fall 1992), pp. 110-111.

15 According to Middle East expert Shibley Telhami, “No other issue resonates with the public in the Arab world, and many other parts of the Muslim world, more deeply than Palestine. No other issue shapes the regional perceptions of America more fundamentally than the issue of Palestine.” The Stakes: America and the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002), p. 96. Lakhdar Brahimi, the former U.N. special envoy to Iraq, who the Bush Administration enlisted to help form an interim Iraqi government in June 2004, said that Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is “the great poison in the region,” and that “in the region, and beyond” people recognized the “injustice of this policy and the equally unjust support of the United States for this policy.” See Warren Hoge, “U.N. Moves to Disassociate Itself from Remarks by Envoy to Iraq,” New York Times, April 23, 2004; “Brahimi’s Israel Comments Draw Annan, Israel Ire,” Ha’aretz, April 24, 2004. Also see the comments of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in “Mubarak: Arab Hatred of America Growing,” Washington Post, April 20, 2004. Finally, see Ami Eden, “9/11 Commission Finds Anger at Israel Fueling Islamic Terrorism Wave,” Forward, July 30, 2004.

16 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks against the United States, “Outline of the 9/11 Plot,” Staff Statement No. 16, June 16, 2004. Also see Nathan Guttman, “Al-Qaida Planned Attacks during PM’s Visit to White House,” Ha’aretz, June 17, 2004; and Marc Perelman, “Bin Laden Aimed to Link Plot to Israel,” Forward, June 25, 2004. Pro-Israel supporters often argue that bin Laden only became interested in the Israel-Palestinian conflict after 9/11, and only because he thought that it was good for recruiting purposes. Thus, there is virtually no connection between what happened on 9/11 and U.S. support for Israel. See Andrea Levin, “Don’t Scapegoat Israel,” Boston Globe, October 6, 2001; Norman Podhoretz, “Israel Isn’t the Issue,” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2001. Note that both of these pieces were published right after the Twin Towers fell. However, we now have a substantial number of bin Laden’s writings and talks from the 1980s and 1990s, and it is clear that he cared deeply about matters relating to Jerusalem and the Palestinians long before 9/11. See, for example, “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders,” World Islamic Front Statement, February 23, 1998; Transcript of Osama bin Laden’s March 20, 1997 interview with Peter Arnett of CNN (first broadcast on May 10, 1997). Also “New Osama bin Laden Video Contains Anti-Israel and Anti-American Statements,” downloaded from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website [] on March 8, 2004.

17 Changing Minds, Winning Peace: A New Strategic Direction for U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World, Report of the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, Submitted to the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, October 1, 2003, p. 18. Also see The Pew Global Attitudes Project, Views of a Changing World 2003: War With Iraq Further Divides Global Publics (Washington, DC: The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, June 3, 2003); Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication (Washington, DC: Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, September 2004); Shibley Telhami, “Arab Public Opinion: A Survey in Six Countries,” San Jose Mercury, March 16, 2003; John Zogby, The Ten Nation Impressions of America Poll (Utica, NY: Zogby International, April 11, 2002); Idem, Impressions of America 2004: How Arabs View America, How Arabs Learn about America (Six Nation Survey), (Utica, NY: Zogby International, 2004).

18 See The Pew Global Attitudes Project, America Admired, Yet Its New Vulnerability Seen As Good Thing, Say Opinion Leaders (Washington, DC: The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, December 19, 2001); Pew Global Attitudes Project, Views of a Changing World 2003, p. 5.

19 For a copy of the letter, see “Doomed to Failure in the Middle East,” The Guardian, April 27, 2004. Also see Nicholas Blanford, “US Moves Inflame Arab Moderates,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 26, 2004; Rupert Cornwell, “Allies Warn Bush that Stability in Iraq Demands Arab-Israeli Deal,” The Independent, June 10, 2004; Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright, “Arabs and Europeans Question ‘Greater Middle East’ Plan,” Washington Post, February 22, 2004; Paul Richter, “U.S. Has Fresh Hope for Mideast,” Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2004; Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler, “U.S. Goals for Middle East Falter,” Washington Post, April 21, 2004. Even some Israelis understand that “the continuation of this conflict, including the Israeli occupation, will most certainly lead to new waves of terror; international terrorism, which the Americans fear so much, will spread.” Ze’ev Schiff, “Fitting into America’s Strategy,” Ha’aretz, August 1, 2003. It is also worth noting that some 50 retired American diplomats wrote a letter in May 2004 to President Bush similar to the letter that the British diplomats sent to Tony Blair. A copy of the American letter was published in The New York Review of Books, November 18, 2004.

20 Consider, for example, the controversy that erupted in 2005 over Israel’s decision to expand its settlements in the West Bank. See Aluf Benn, “We Can’t Expect Explicit U.S. Okay to Build in Settlements,” Ha’aretz, March 28, 2005; Akiva Eldar, “Bush: End Expansion of Settlements,” Ha’aretz, May 27, 2005; “Bush Warns Israel over West Bank,” BBC News Online, April 11, 2005; Donald Macintyre, “Sharon Vows to Defy Bush over Expansion of Israeli Settlements,” Independent, April 22, 2005; “Sharon Brushes Off Warning from Bush,”, April 12, 2005; Amy Teibel, “U.S. to Israel: Stop Expanding Settlements,” Washington Post, June 26, 2005; Ze’ev Schiff, “U.S.: Israel Shirking Its Promises on Settlement Boundaries,” Ha’aretz, March 15, 2005. Regarding targeted assassinations Prime Minister Sharon promised Secretary of State Colin Powell in May 2003 that Israel would refrain from killing Palestinian leaders unless there was a “ticking bomb” (an imminent attack). Ze’ev Schiff, “Focus/Americans Fear Abu Mazen Is Further Weakened,” Ha’aretz, June 12, 2003. But one month later, after Bush made a high-profile visit to the Middle East and the prospects for negotiations between the warring parties looked promising, Sharon launched seven assassination missions in five days, none involving a “ticking bomb.” Bradley Burston, “Background: Has Sharon’s Hamas Hitlist Converted Bush?” Ha’aretz, June 17, 2003. Also see Uri Avnery, “Avoiding a Road Map to the Abyss,” Arab News (online), August 26, 2003; Glenn Kessler, “White House Backs Latest Israeli Attacks,” Washington Post, June 13, 2003; Laura King, “Sharon Lauds Hebron Killing,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2003; Gideon Levy, “Who Violated the Hudna?” Tikkun (online), August 17, 2003. In March 2004, the IDF killed Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Yassin, even though he was not an imminent threat, and even though his death damaged America’s position in the Middle East. Georgie Anne Geyer, “Ariel Sharon Complicates U.S. Mission,” Chicago Tribune, March 26, 2004; H.D.S. Greenway, “Assassination Fallout Bodes Ill for US,” Boston Globe, March 26, 2004; Tony Karon, “How Israel’s Hamas Killing Affects the U.S.,” Time, March 23, 2004; David R. Sands, “Israel’s Killing of Yassin Puts US in Line of Fire,” Washington Times, March 23, 2004. As Jim Hoagland said in the wake of Yassin’s killing, “With the possible exception of Charles de Gaulle, no friendly foreign leader has complicated modern American diplomacy more consistently or gravely than Ariel Sharon. He pursues Israel’s interests with a warrior’s tenacity and directness that takes away the breath, and the options, of everyone else.” See “Consequences for Sharon — and the U.S.,” Chicago Tribune, March 26, 2004.

21 Quoted in Duncan L. Clarke, “Israel’s Unauthorized Arms Transfers,” Foreign Policy, No. 99 (Summer 1995), p. 94. This article provides an excellent discussion of the problem. There was a bitter controversy in 2004-2005 between the United States and Israel over Israeli arms sales to China. See Aluf Benn and Amnon Barzilai, “Pentagon Official Wants Yaron Fired,” Ha’aretz, December 16, 2004; Aluf Benn, “U.S. Keeps Israel Out of New Fighter-Jet Development Program,” Ha’aretz, October 12, 2005; Nina Gilbert, “Yaron Won’t Give Info on Arms Sales to China,” Jerusalem Post, December 30, 2004; “Israeli, U.S. Talks on Weapons Deals with China End without Result,” Ha’aretz, June 29, 2005; Marc Perelman, “Spat Over Sales of Weapons Chilling Ties between Jerusalem and Beijing,” Forward, December 23, 2004; Marc Perelman, “China Crisis Straining U.S.-Israel Ties,” Forward, August 5, 2005; Marc Perelman, “Israel Miffed over Lingering China Flap,” Forward, October 7, 2005; Ze’ev Schiff, “U.S.-Israel Crisis Deepens over Defense Exports to China,” Ha’aretz, July 27, 2005.

22 Quoted in Duncan L. Clarke, “Israel’s Economic Espionage in the United States,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Summer 1998), p. 21. Also see Bob Drogin and Greg Miller, “Israel Has Long Spied on U.S. Say Officials,” Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2004; “FBI Says Israel a Major Player in Industrial Espionage,” Jewish Bulletin, January 16, 1998; Clyde R. Mark, “Israeli-United States Relations,” Issue Brief for Congress (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, November 9, 2004), pp. 14-15; Joshua Mitnick, “U.S. Accuses Officials of Spying,” Washington Times, December 16, 2004.

23 On the Pollard affair, see Hersh, Samson Option, pp. 285-305; Idem, “The Traitor: Why Pollard Should Never Be Released,” New Yorker, Vol. 74, issue 42 (January 18, 1999), pp. 26-33. There are a huge number of articles on the internet dealing with the Franklin Affair. For a good overview of the case, see Jeffrey Goldberg, “Real Insiders: A Pro-Israel Lobby and an F.B.I. Sting,” New Yorker, Vol. 81, issue 19 (July 4, 2005), pp. 34-40.