Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Just How Powerful is the Israel Lobby?


How large a role does the “Israeli Lobby” play in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East?

Some answers may be contained in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, reviewed in the Sept. 23 New York Times, and Rulers and Ruled in The U.S. Empire by James Petras, just published by Clarity Press. Mearsheimer teaches at the University of Chicago and Walt teaches at Harvard.

According to Petras, a sociologist at Binghamton University, New York, the pro-Zionist “power configuration” is not just the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC). The Zionist lobby is so powerful, Petras argues, it “calls the shots” and “supports the escalation of the Iraq war and the savaging of Palestine, Somalia and Afghanistan.”

“It (the Lobby”) has neutralized the biggest and most concerted efforts by big name centrist political figures to alter White House policy,” including James Baker, (former Secretary of State under the first president Bush,) former president Carter and “protesting former military commanders” in Iraq.

Petras charges, “the White House is putting into practice the war strategy presented by the American’ Enterprise Institute, which he dubs a Zioncon thinktank. Led by “arch-Zionist” Michael Ledeen a resident scholar of AEI, “some in the Jewish Lobby dismissed the Baker Iraq Study Group as the realists and anti-Semites.'” The ISG “was unable to deal with Israeli violence against Palestinians or enter into a dialogue with Syria and Iran on any but the most narrow and unpromising terms,” Petras asserted.

Petras goes on to say the Lobby includes investment bank Goldman Sachs, which exerts a “dominant presence” in the Bush government. Among its alumni are Joshua Bolton, White House Chief of Staff; Robert Steel, former GS vice chairman who advises Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on domestic finance; and Assistant Secretary of State Randall Fort, an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Paulson is a former chairman and CEO of GS.

What’s more, Petras writes, high Bush officials from the Lobby have played top Pentagon policymaking roles and have “longstanding and deep ties with the Israeli state.” Elliott Abrams, President Bush’s deputy national security advisor, Petras writes, is a “stern defender of Jewish purity and intimate collaborator with the Israeli high command” and “gave full support in early summer to an Israeli plan to destroy Hezbollah,” a month before last year’s controversial border incident when two Israeli soldiers were captured. David Wurmser, former Mideast adviser to Vice President Cheney is also an “Israeli Firster”, according to Petras.

“An examination of AIPAC’s agenda shows a new war against Iran on behalf of Israel at the top of its list of priorities,” Petras asserts. “For the last three years, the publications, conferences and press releases of the Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations(CPMAJO) had urged their members to go all-out to fund and back candidates (mostly Democrats) who supported Israel’s military solution’ to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.”

CPMAJO consists of 51 national organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, several hundred local and regional Jewish federations, and the United Jewish Communities. Petras would doubtless include the Rabbinical Council of America.

“The Lobby,” Petras says, also includes seven major “think tanks” that “crank out” position papers arguing “Israel is always right” and “the Arabs and Muslims are a threat to peace.” Besides the AEI, these think tanks, Petras identifies as the New Citizenship Project, the Project for the New American Century, the Center for Security Policy, the National Institute for Public Policy, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, and the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.

In Congress, Petras cites the pro-Israeli stance of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.) and Senator Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.), campaign finance directors, and calls House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) “100% Israel supporters.”

Writing of Mearsheimer-Walt book, reviewer Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, says its authors contend “the lobby has made U.S. policy so lopsidedly pro-Israel that if fuels Muslim terrorism against the U.S., fosters the spread of nuclear weapons in Arab states and puts at added risk America’s critical energy supplies from the Persian Gulf.”

Gelb concedes “It’s true” the Lobby “has made America’s longstanding $3 billion annual aid program to Israel untouchable and indiscussible” but notes the U.S. is also giving $2 billion a year to Egypt. He also points out for several decades every occupant of the White House “has sold Saudi Arabia and other Arab states first-rate modern weapons, against the all-out opposition of Israel and the lobby.”

And, he adds, each of these administrations since the 1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip “has privately favored returning almost all of that territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state.

Gelb says by asserting the dominance of the Israeli lobby, Mearsheimer-Walt “also minimize the lobbying influence of the Saudis and the oil companies” that, along with the Egyptians, have been significant voices in Washington arguing for a Palestinian state. As for war against Iran, Gelb says this has been urged as much by Saudi Arabia and the Lobby.

Gelb contends even if the U.S. quit backing Israel, American foreign policy would still be in disfavor because of its “deep ties with highly unpopular regimes in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not to mention the war in Iraq.” The real play-callers behind the Iraq war, he said, are President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. “They hardly have a history of being in the pockets of the Jewish lobby (more like the oil lobby’s), and they aren’t remotely neoconservatives.” Finally, Gelb writes, Bush and Cheney favor “getting Iran” and, in the last analysis, they “neither need nor heed lobbying.”

SHERWOOD ROSS is a Miami-based writer who covers political and military affairs. Reach him at


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians