The Return of the “Israel Lobby” Canard

Oct. 10 2017

Ten years after the publication of The Israel Lobby—the work of two “realist” political scientists who accused pro-Israel forces of manipulating U.S. foreign policy into disaster—events in the Middle East have shown that the existence of a Jewish state is the least of the region’s problems. Yet the book’s coauthor, Stephen Walt, has resurfaced with a column in the Forward arguing that history has proved him right. Jonathan Tobin comments:

[T]he nature of Walt and [and his coauthor John] Mearsheimer’s arguments [in their book] hinged on anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews buying influence or manipulating unsuspecting Gentiles. . . . While Walt continues to deny the anti-Semitic nature of his work, it is telling that in his Forward article he cites, among other things, the rise of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that engages in openly anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist incitement, as proof his stand was correct. He and [others who share his perspective] ignore the reality of the conflict in which a Palestinian political culture rejects peace on any terms. . . .

The context for this effort [to revive the arguments of Walt and Mearsheimer] is important because while most Jews are still focused on President Donald Trump’s wrongheaded comments about Charlottesville, the Democratic party is becoming increasingly hostile to Israel. . . . . [N]ow that we have a president who, despite other obvious faults, isn’t obsessed with the idea of “saving Israel from itself” or in empowering an Iranian regime that is as much of a threat to the U.S. and the Arab states as it is to Israel, as Barack Obama was, it’s unsurprising that some on the left want to revive this dishonest discussion.

In the ten years since The Israel Lobby was first published, a rising tide of anti-Semitism has swept across the globe, fueled in part by smears of Israel and Jews like [the smears] Walt helped spread. That is an indictment of his work, not a vindication. Those who want to besmirch Israel’s supporters as undermining U.S. interests without being rightly labeled as anti-Semites are fooling no one.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, Israel Lobby, Stephen Walt

When It Comes to Syria, Vladimir Putin’s Word Can’t Be Trusted

July 13 2018

In the upcoming summit between the Russian and American presidents in Helsinki, the future of Syria is likely to rank high on the agenda. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has already made clear that Moscow won’t demand a complete Iranian withdrawal from the country. Donald Trump, by contrast, has expressed his desire for a complete U.S. withdrawal. Examining Moscow’s track record when it comes to maintaining its past commitments regarding Syria, Eli Lake urges caution:

Secretary of State John Kerry spent his last year in office following Lavrov all over the world in an attempt to create a U.S.-Russian framework for resolving the Syrian civil war. He failed. . . . President Trump [now] wants to get to know Putin better—and gauge his willingness to help isolate Iran. This is a pointless and dangerous gambit. First, by announcing his intention to pull U.S. forces out of the country “very soon,” Trump has already given away much of his leverage within Syria.

Ideally, Trump would want to establish a phased plan with Putin, where the U.S. would make some withdrawals following Iranian withdrawals from Syria. But Trump has already made it clear that prior [stated] U.S. objectives for Syria, such as the removal of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, are no longer U.S. objectives. The U.S. has also declined to make commitments to give money for Syrian reconstruction.

Without any leverage, Trump will have to rely even more on Putin’s word, which is worthless. Putin to this day denies any Russian government role in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Just last month, Putin went on Austrian television and lied about his government’s role in shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Why would anyone trust Putin to keep his word to help remove Iran and its proxies from Syria?

And this gets to the most dangerous possible outcome of the upcoming summit. The one thing that Kerry never did was to attempt to trade concessions on Syria for concessions on Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. There was a good reason for this: even if one argues that the future of Ukraine is not a high priority for the U.S., it’s a disastrous precedent to allow one nation to change the boundaries of another through force, and particularly of one that signed an agreement with the U.S., UK, and Russia to preserve its territorial integrity in exchange for relinquishing its cold-war-era nuclear weapons.

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More about: Crimea, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin