On Wednesday, September 20th, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies hosted Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer as they presented their recent working paper, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.” The presentation was moderated by Dean Emeritus Peter Krogh of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, who noted that the Intercultural Center Auditorium was filled to standing room only.
Dr. Stephen Walt, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and currently a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, opened the discussion with a summation of the thesis of the paper. Drs. Walt and Meirsheimer write that the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on U.S. government decision-making has led to policies that are neither in the best interest of the United States nor of Israel itself. While noting that the groups that comprise the pro-Israel lobby are not monolithic or a “cabal”, their efficacy in influencing American foreign policy is similar to other lobbying organizations, such as the AARP, which can channel the concerns of a group that feels passionately about their issue and are well funded. He then pointed out some examples of how the lobby contributed to U.S. foreign policy, such as lack of financial censure for West Bank settlements, lack of firm support for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and the second U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Dr. John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, spoke at length on the recent conflict in Lebanon and the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on American foreign policy there. He noted that the U.S. was the only country in the world to not criticize Israel’s actions in Lebanon, a situation which he believes stems from the actions of the pro-Israel lobby and not from strategic or moral considerations. He outlined the lobby’s response to the “fallout” from the conflict, such as the criticism of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as biased against Israel.
Dean Peter Krogh then presided over a brief question and answer session before thanking the speakers and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies for the presentation.