US Mideast policy will not change, Israel always in control

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amnesia

The next US president, whether it be Barack Obama or John McCain, is not going to change the American policy towards Israel and the Middle East, thanks to the powerful Jewish lobby in the country, according to John J Mearsheimer, a noted American author and academician.

Mearsheimer, who co-authored the book The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy with Stephen M Walt, was delivering a lecture on the same topic at the Diplomatic Club yesterday. Walt also addressed the
Stephen M Walt

gathering.

"Many people in the Middle East think that Barack Obama, if elected president, would bring changes in the American policy towards the region. I don't think this is going to happen," said Mearsheimer, replying to a query from the audience.

"The Jewish lobby is monitoring Obama and AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most influential Jewish group in the US) has started putting pressure on him. There are all indications to believe that Obama is falling in line," he added.

The lecture was organised by the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. CIRS director Mehran Kamrava chaired the function.

Both the speakers held the view that there has been a "special relationship" between the US and Israel and this is not going to change in the foreseeable future as no American politician would dare to challenge the powerful Jewish lobby.

"Washington was not able to put pressure on Israel to stop building settlements in Palestinian territories due to the influence of the Jewish lobby. Israel is a domestic policy, not part of the American foreign policy," said Mearsheimer.

The speakers argued that the US policy favouring Israel is not in the interests of the US, the other countries in the Middle East and even Israel.

"This support is angering a huge number of people in the Arab world and is one of the main factors triggering terrorism in the region. The September 11 Commission has reported that this was a main reason behind the attack," said Mearsheimer.

Rejecting conspiracy theories about the Jewish lobby, Walt said, "American politics is deeply influenced by various interest groups and the Jewish lobby is the most influential of these groups. It is not a centralized organisation and various groups make up the lobby. They differ on many issues but what is common among them is their support for the special relationship between Israel and the US."

Like any other interest groups in the US, the Jewish lobby functions by winning politicians to their side, giving money to election candidates, trying to get their supporters appointed in key positions, influencing the media and so on.

The Jewish lobby is not synonymous with Jews. About 20 to 30 per cent of the Jews in America don't care about Israel and there are many Jews who don't support the Jewish lobby. On the other hand, there are some Christian Zionists who are part of this lobby, added Walt.

Citing a 2005 survey, he said 78 per cent of the Americans don't want the US to favour either Israel or the Palestinians.

"One of the arguments in favour of the special relationship is that Israel is a vital strategic asset to the US. This theory was relevant in the Cold War era. Now Israel has become a strategic liability to the US," said Walt.