The Israel Lobby

One of the reasons I never read John Mearshimer and Stephen Walt’s book The Israel Lobby (I have read the original article) is that the conclusions seem to be fairly benign and glaringly obvious. I don’t think anyone watching the political scene could actually say, in good faith, that there isn’t a lobbying sector devoted to promoting Israel’s interests the same way there’s a sector devoted to guns, abortion rights, environmental issues, etc. It’s also the case that everyone’s heard plenty of stories of journalists, commentators, academics, and politicians making critical statements about Israel and subsequently facing a campaign to sanction them for it. So ultimately I just never saw much of a reason to buy a book and spend time reading something to learn things I was already well aware of.

I’m pretty sure, however, that Walt and Mearshimer have never claimed that the Israeli government could dictate the actions of the U.S. government and force their votes at the U.N. That claim was just made, however, by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In an unusually public rebuke, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said Monday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been forced to abstain from a United Nations resolution on Gaza that she helped draft, after Mr. Olmert placed a phone call to President Bush.

“I said, ‘Get me President Bush on the phone,’ ” Mr. Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, according to The Associated Press. “They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care: ‘I need to talk to him now,’ ” Mr. Olmert continued. “He got off the podium and spoke to me.”

Israel opposed the resolution, which called for a halt to the fighting in Gaza, because the government said it did not provide for Israel’s security. It passed 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining.

Mr. Olmert claimed that once he made his case to Mr. Bush, the president called Ms. Rice and told her to abstain. “She was left pretty embarrassed,” Mr. Olmert said, according to The A.P.

Now to be fair, there’s plenty of reason to doubt this, not the least of which being that there are elections coming up in Israel, and Olmert really goes out of his way to puff up his chest. Either way, however, it’s at least telling that the Israeli Prime Minister thinks he can make these claims with credulity, both at home and abroad.

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