THE ORIGINS OF THE ARTICLE. My first thought upon reading Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's article about "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" was that if they were going for maximal controversy, they'd missed the moment of greatest potential impact by several years. Their description of an expansionist Israel dominated by the Likud was completely out of date, and, overall, the article had the feeling of something written during the Netanyahu years -- or at the very latest, during those of the pre-Kadima Ariel Sharon -- which was then kicked around nervous university offices for some substantial length of time until finally being updated with a few nods to the present and published. Setting aside the rather significant way in which they took an interesting question -- How has U.S. support for Israel impacted its Middle East policy? -- and proceeded to run it right off the rails, the whole thing stunk of being past its sell-by date. Not once in an article published in March 2006 did the authors even mention the word Kadima, the November 2005 founding of which was a function of the most important transformation in Israel's thinking about its future in about two decades.
Indeed, the most interesting thing about the US-Israel relationship today is not the impact that Israel's lobbyists and defenders have on US policies in the Middle East, but the way in which Israelis have moved to the left of the United States politically and in which our president is now much more of a hard-liner than is Israel's prime minister. There's also the increasingly live question, ignored by the paper's authors, about whether or not US Middle East policy right now is actually leading to outcomes that are in the Israeli interest; I suspect many in Israel would say a destabilized Iraq gripped by intensifying civil war and a defiant, Israel-hating Iran whose nuclear ambitions are partly fueled by fear of the US is not what they might have hoped for.