American foreign policy American Jews Israel Israeli occupation Mearsheimer and Walt Middle East peace process Palestinians Zionism

Mearsheimer, Walt and what didn’t really happen at Camp David

There is a sentence towards the end of Walt and Mearsheimer’s new book that undercuts some of what they have tried to accomplish with their critique of the “Israel Lobby.” Having rejected the binational, single-state solution as well as Israel’s permanent occupation, they assert: “The United States will have to put significant pressure on Israel to accept the creation of a viable Palestinian State, which in practice means accepting a solution within the Clinton parameters.”

The “Clinton parameters!?”

Earlier in the book, the two professors disparage Clinton’s Middle East peace team and snipe at the U.S. approach to the Barak-Arafat talks at Camp David. They invoke Aaron David Miller’s familiar conclusion that, too often, the U.S. had acted as “Israel’s lawyer.” They claim that “the American delegation at Camp David took most of its cues from Israeli Prime Minister Barak, coordinated negotiating positions with Israel in advance, and did not offer its own independent proposals for settling the conflict.”

To them, the whole exercise was just one more example of America’s inability to act as a neutral mediator and make suggestions that Israel does not like. Camp David, to them, is “the Lobby” at its worst, since they include the Jewish members of the Clinton team as part of that Lobby. They question whether the “well-known sympathies” of Ross and Indyk for Israel made the administration “less inclined to bring U.S. leverage to bear on Israel.”

Yet, when it comes time to step out of the ivory tower and endorse something that might work “in practice,” they opt for the Clinton plan. That plan was crafted with the guidance of the very same officials who were supposedly Zionist fifth columnists. And it wasn’t created after Ross and Indyk went to some kind of post-Camp David, 12-step, Zio-detox facility and purged themselves of “sympathies for Israel.” [Ross: “Hello, my name is Dennis and I’m not a credible mediator.” Other Jewish officials: “Hi Dennis.”]. The plan, which calls for historic painful compromises by both the Israelis and Palestinians, was the end result of the arduous negotiations that had come before it, at Camp David, at Taba and in less public interactions.

At Camp David, Ross, Indyk, Miller, Malley and the others were trying to engender an agreement that the Israeli and Palestinian publics could conceivably accept. It seems incredible that is necessary to point out the following, but it is not clear if Walt and Mearsheimer understand it: no agreement that was fashioned at Camp David would have had any value in the real world unless, somehow, the Israeli people got behind it and the Prime Minister who was proposing it.

That was, apparently, one of the main reasons why Clinton’s diplomats spent so much time and effort testing the diplomatic waters with the Barak government before bringing proposals to the table. Perhaps they spent too much time. Perhaps they leaned too far in Israel’s direction. I don’t know exactly what happened at Camp David. No one does, including the people who were there. All of the accounts by participants or interviews with participants provide different versions of what transpired. But I do know that, for all of his considerable flaws, Ehud Barak ended up pushing for an agreement that was well beyond anything the Israeli people had ever been asked to consider by an Israeli government, including the formal division of Jerusalem and land swaps with the Palestinians. It is easy for academics to declare that Israel should do this or Israel should do that and not worry about Israeli politics or public opinion. Israeli Prime Ministers don’t have that luxury and neither do American diplomats.

It is clear that many mistakes were made by all the parties at Camp David. It is certain that Barak’s take-or-leave-it negotiating style did not work. Perhaps the Clinton team didn’t have sufficient sensitivity to Arafat’s vulnerabilities and his sense that, especially when negotiating over Jerusalem, he was representing the entire Muslim world. Perhaps the whole summit should never have been held, as Arafat reportedly was not ready for it.

But Clinton and his team deserve a lot more credit than Mearsheimer and Walt deign to give. While they quote from the Rob Malley/Hussein Agha critique of the U.S. approach in the NY Review of Books a few times, they conspicuously leave out a paragraph that undermines the notion that the U.S. was marching in diplomatic lockstep with Israel. Malley and Agha wrote :

…One of the more debilitating effects of the visible alignment between Israel and the United States was that it obscured the real differences between them. Time and again, and usually without the Palestinians being aware of it, the President sought to convince the Prime Minister to accept what until then he had refused—among them the principle of land swaps, Palestinian sovereignty over at least part of Arab East Jerusalem and, after Camp David, over the Haram al-Sharif, as well as a significantly reduced area of Israeli annexation. This led Barak to comment to the President that, on matters of substance, the US was much closer to the Palestinians’ position than to Israel’s. This was only one reflection of a far wider pattern of divergence between Israeli and American positions—yet one that has systematically been ignored by Palestinians and other Arabs alike.

It has also deliberately ignored by Mearsheimer and Walt, and that is one of the many, troubling aspects of this book. I still believe it has some merit and that they don’t deserve the complete hatchet jobs that are now starting to occur. But they were manifestly unfair to Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk.

35 thoughts on “Mearsheimer, Walt and what didn’t really happen at Camp David

  1. I don’t think you need to worry about the reception the M & W book is getting. If this blistering essay by a Harvard prof is any indication, people are suddenly feeling inspired to take chances that would have been unthinkable just a short while ago–

    Congressman Moran’s interview with Rabbi Lerner is another example of something obviously intended to tweak the noses of those who had tried to intimidate him.

  2. We live in a very secretive world.

    It is nearly impossible to “know what really happened”.

    There are situations in which there the events occur in a room, and even those from differing cultures or perspectives, can at least verify that certain physical events took place, even that something was said.

    At Camp David, there were reported to be rare times when everyone was in a room, that much of the negotiation was by messenger, and between those with VERY different perspectives on what specific language means, even what one’s word means at all.

    And, certainly each with very different processes for securing consent of those that they represented, and some consent of those intentionally external to the process (Hamas, etc.)

    In general in the world, one of the dilemmas of modern media, modern governance and power, modern “intelligence”/counter-intelligence, modern multi-culturalism; is that political discussion is most often NOT transparent and therefore not verifiable, and that there is an enormous amount of intentional disinformation presented.

    Another concern that is apparent is the gullibility of many. While the left may criticize liberal Zionists of gullibility, the left is certainly selective, to the level of gullibility, as to what it chooses to consider “known”.

    As I mentioned earlier, it disturbed me to see interviews with Walt and Mearsheimer in which they asserted as known, statements that I knew to be of ambiguous source (the translation of Ahmenijidad’s speech which was reported by Al-Jazeera from a translation supplied by the Iranian foreign press service).

  3. But isn’t their implication that Ross and Indyk were dual loyalists offensive to you? It’s offensive to me. I believe it is offensive to most Jews, including those who share your politics. They don’t offer any proof. If you are going to imply something like that, you better have proof…

  4. Fran,

    I agree, but their implications as to motive do not make Ross or Indyk or anyone who has taken position like theirs (or to the right of theirs) correct about what’s best for either Israel or America (let alone the Palestinians).

    That’s why I think once we’ve had our offended reactions we need to turn back to the question of what’s best. I wish W&M had been more careful about their implications and about separating aspects of their argument more rigorously, but these are not reasons for dismissing the book, which has some very useful things to add to the debate.

  5. Fran,

    To follow up on the point of “Trying to Make Sense.” I’d say that from now on, it would be a mistake for an administration to assign key roles in Israel-Arab diplomacy to people whose backgrounds give the appearance that they can’t be balanced. It doesn’t matter if they can be balanced or not. Appearances matter a lot in the Middle East. It pains me to say it. But some guy who used to work for WINEP or AIPAC is not the ideal person for that job. Maybe Walt/Mearsheimer were “unfair” about Ross and Indyk. But for the future, what matters is effective diplomacy, and “what’s best” for the region and for America

  6. Teddy,
    That’s a mistake.

    It is a formula for exclusion on the basis of ethnicity.

    Women should represent the US in Islamic countries for example. Jews should as well.

    Your formula gives fanatics veto power over who can be president for example.

  7. OK, so there may been have some issues where there may have been some daylight between the Clinton Administration and Israel, but the fact is, on every issue – Jerusalem, the refugees, settlements, Resolution 242/borders – the Clinton Administration was much closer to the Israeli position than the Palestinian position.

    I don’t think Ross & Indyk are part of “the lobby”, in the sense they consciously work for Israel’s interests, but the fact is, they come in with a framework that heavily prioritizes Israeli concerns. The controversial Norman Finkelstein has written an essay how Ross has ignored international law in his discussion of the peace process:

  8. Richard,

    “Jews should as well.” No argument. But maybe it does some harm to America’s credibility if they happen to be Jews who have worked for or had very close connections to AIPAC and the Israel lobby. I’d love the State Department to hire someone like Dan Fleshler, for example (not that I know if he has any real qualifications; I do know that he generally sounds sensible, and he’s with the forces of good.)

    You wouldn’t want to send a female diplomat to a conservative Islamic country if she had a record of support for gay rights or used to work for NOW, would you? Would you want a Cypriot American who has close ties to the Greek lobby handling the State Department’s approach to the Cyprus problem? This blog is supposed to be encouraging hardhdeaded realism. Well, we must be realistic about how the world perceives Ross and Indyk, even if the perception is unfair.

  9. Peter,
    The proof is in the pudding. However the Clintonites ended up with the Clinton plan, whatever mistakes were made, Mearsheimer and Walt endorse it as the only possible way to awaken from this nightmare. Is it skewed too far in Israel’s favor? Perhaps. Much of the left believes so. But that portion of the left will never be satisfied with a compromise that could conceivably work in the real world.

    I believe that if the second intifadeh had not destroyed the faith of the Israeli public in the existence of a credible partner, and if Arafat and his team had found a way to accept the plan, and if moderate states had lined up behind it in the way they are lining up behind the Saudi plan now, then the Israeli public would have been in favor of it. And I believe if what was offered to Arafat at Camp David, then Taba and finally in DC had been fully conveyed to the Palestinian public, there would have been widespread –although hardly unanimous–support for the idea of giving it a try. There were many reasons why none of this happened –and some of the reasons don’t reflect very well on either the Israelis or the Americans. But, again, the point is that the “sympathies” of Ross and Indyk for Israel don’t appear to have much to do with what happened.

  10. For a concise overview of the problems with the Walt-Mearsheimer essay and book, see the 5 page pdf at this link.

    This pdf is being widely disseminated in academia, industry and government.

  11. This is the first I’ve seen of this or similar suggestions, by anybody.

    That the response is not all that different from my personal observations, makes it mostly credible to me.

  12. I believe that W and M will be another footnote in this debate in just a few short weeks. Already the price of the book has been drastically slashed (see, e.g., Amazon) and now the authors words will be defined by the competing factions in this debate.

    It is, of course, too bad, but I submit that they only have themselves to blame. They could have written about the various groups constituting a so-called Israel Lobby and explored how that amalgam of groups go about getting things done in Washington. Instead, factual inaccuracies aside–and not to diminish their failure to comprehend basic truths about Camp David/Taba, etc.–they premised their analysis on the notion that the Israel Lobby is in control, that it was, for example, a “critical” element in the equation that led Bush and Cheney to war.

    Alas, for marketing or other reasons, these reapected academics opted to spend their 15-minutes of fame sounding the familiar themes that those who sound them always claim are unfamiliar–namely that the Israel Lobby stifles debate through meritless charges of anti-semitism.

    Disappointing? Indeed. Surprising? Hardly.

    The W and M debate: been there done that and nothing is new.

  13. I think this is one of those tricky ones where it should be that people’s actions – not ethnicity or personal beliefs – are the defining criteria.

    Being a Jew and sympathetic to Zionism does not automatically equate being biased in favor of Israel or the Zionist project. A great example of this would be Sir Herbert Samuel, the first British High Commissioner of the Palestine Mandate. Despite being Jewish and on record as supporting the basic idea of Zionism as it was understood at that time; he was first and foremost a conscientious officer of the British colonial office and as such was so concerned with refusing to allow his personal beliefs to jade his administration that he effectively became one of the most pro-Palestinian High Commissioners of the Mandate. He worked so hard to avoid the image of bias it effectively amounted to reverse bias much to the chagrin of the Yishuv at the time. [see, for example, A. J. Sherman, “Mandate Days; British Lives in Palestine 1918-1948,” Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, ]

    Conversely, both Ross & Indyk have proven – if not before, certainly since their roles in Camp David – their undeniable pro-Israel bias.

    So, since the appearance of bias cannot be discounted though it should be, I would agree with Teddy: “I’d say that from now on, it would be a mistake for an administration to assign key roles in Israel-Arab diplomacy to people whose backgrounds give the appearance that they can’t be balanced. It doesn’t matter if they can be balanced or not.”

    Frankly it puts an unfair burden on the diplomats in question: if they are too supportive of one side, then it is assumed they must biased, and of course if they resist this image (as Samuel did, described above) then they become almost biased the other way. The concept of avoiding the “appearance of conflict of interest” or bias – regardless of actual conflict of interest or bias in practice – is well established in U.S. law (US Office of Government Ethics, ) and should be applied to our diplomacy as well. No one would take it seriously if the chief mediator between Sinhalese and Tamils happened to be a Tamil-American with ties to the Tamil Tigers, or the chief mediator between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians happened to be a Serbian-American with ties to Serbian nationalists in the US and the same certainly holds true for mediators between Israelis and Palestinians by Jewish-Americans frequently with ties to pro-Israeli interests in the United States.

    Further, assuming the US diplomat was sincere about supporting peace and impartiality then one would think that most Jewish-Americans would voluntarily recuse themselves from such positions due to the inevitable appearance of a conflict of interest or bias.

    Also, just a side note related to some of the comments… I personally don’t really take Daniel Pipes at his word for much of anything and since his source for the following contention is just some sort of “private letters” it is all the more suspect; according to him there is already an agreement to refuse to send Jewish diplomats to Saudi Arabia…

    “Hunter explains that a protocol prohibiting Jews being assigned to the Kingdom was signed by the U.S. Embassy in Jeddah and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a result of which the State Department avoids sending Jewish employees to reside in Saudi Arabia.[11] Select senior diplomats of Jewish origin may briefly visit the country on official business but “no low or mid-level Jewish-American diplomat was permitted to be stationed/reside in Kingdom” during Hunter’s three-year experience.” [SOURCE: Daniel Pipes, “The Scandal of U.S.-Saudi Relations,” Israel Universe, Winter 2002/2003, ]

    I don’t know if this is true and as mentioned previously the source is circumspect as far as I’m concerned, nevertheless, the basic proposition does not sound unreasonable to me; that is, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was in fact true.

    John S.

  14. I would think that a prerequisite to being an effective facilitator would be to have sympathies for Israel AND sympathies for Palestine.

    That would make an effective conciliation.

    In contrast, adopting the corollary, “I have contempt for Israel and contempt for Palestine”, would not have been either more successful nor unbiased.

  15. Ruling out any Jews who are Zionists would effectively mean that no Jews who support America’s declared Mideast policy could represent America in the Middle East.

    Much more effective would be to get moderate Arab-American academics such as Shibley Telhami or Fuad Ajami in the next administration. Telhami has the advantage of being fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew, as well as quite familiar with Israeli and Pal politics. Ajami has the advantage of being a Shi’ite Muslim Arab. But better yet for more balance would be to have the European pro-Palestinian, pro-Arab bias balance the American pro-Israel bias. This would have the advantage of allowing those with leverage with both sides to apply pressure on them. The model for this would be the Anglo-Irish diplomacy in Northern Ireland from 1993 to 2007. But we should learn from the mistakes of the NI peace process and make sure that Washington doesn’t adopt a “balanced” approach while the Europeans continue to implement an aggressive pro-Arab policy as occurred with Blair and the British in N. Ireland.

    The basis problem with the Oslo process is that Arafat didn’t care about the actual terms of the agreements that he was negotiating, because he had not intention of keeping them once he became strong enough to violate them. He came to Camp David in July 2000 with a ethno-religious mandate to make absolutely no meaningful concessions. He orchestrated thru the PA’s media a campaign to organize a Pal war of national liberation that would result in a Pal state. But he badly miscalculated both Israeli reaction, the balance-of-power, and the reaction of Arab governments who all refused to back up the PA militarily.

  16. The State Department had NEVER sent a Jewish ambassador to Israel — or a Greek ambassador to Greece, or a Russian ambassador to Russia — because of the obvious reason of the inherent conflict of interest. Never, that is, until Martin Indyk was installed in 1995. Less than a week after getting his American citizenship, Indyk went from being an employee of AIPAC to an employee of the State Department dealing with Israel.

    To understand how this happened, Google “David Steiner” and “Harry Katz.”

  17. Folks,
    I cannot fathom why no one has commented on the most intriguing suggestion for America’s foreign policy apparatus that I have ever heard, i.e., Teddy’s notion that the State Department should hire Dan Fleshler! Thanks but no thanks, Teddy. I wouldn’t be able to pontificate…

    More seriously, what if there were a well-qualified American Jew who had deep familiarity with the Middle East, considerable foreign policy experience and credentials as a supporter of Israel’s peace camp? What if, as a result, he/she had developed personal relations with Arab leaders –including Palestinians– as well as Israelis? I am thinking of someone like Henry Siegman, who used to run the American Jewish Congress and then moved on to the Council of Foriegn Relations, and has always been a fierce and outspoken dove…Or Stephen P. Cohen when he was a bit younger. Would your priority on “appearances” mean that they should excluded, too?

  18. Dan,

    Thanks for your response. Personally, I have reservations about the December 2000 Clinton Parameters. However, you do make a valid point that if Mearsheimer & Walt believe that the Clinton Parameters are a fair resolution to the conflict, they should acknowledge Ross’s role in formulating them. That being said, the process can be as important as the end result. It’s clear that by the time of the Camp David Summit, there was a significant deterioration in Palestinian support for the peace process. The “fruits of peace” had completely failed to materialize for the average Palestinian, & polls showed growing support for armed resistance. Further, what was offered at Camp David (which should be distinguished from the Clinton Parameters, BTW) was unacceptable to the vast majority of Palestinians. The fact that Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of the Camp David Summit just solidified the growing conviction among Palestinians that the US was trying to shove an unjust settlement down their throats. In my opinion, it was this growing anger & frustration that was responsible for the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

    What also bothers me about Ross & Indyk is the positions they’ve taken since they’ve left office. They’ve insisted on heaping the lion’s share of blame on Arafat & the Palestinians (contrast that with their generally favorable assessment of Sharon, who openly talked about putting the peace process on “formaldehyde”). . I don’t want to get into a discussion about the breakdown of the peace process right now , but I will say that the consensus that Dennis Ross helped shape – that there can be no peace as long as Arafat is in power– amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy. So even if Ross & Indyk deserve credit for formulating the Clinton Parameters, their post-Clinton-Administration analysis has helped guarantee continual conflict.

  19. Also, I would just add that Ross & Indyk, despite some mild disagreements with the Bush Administration, have basically supported Bush/Sharon/Olmert on all the major issues: freezing relations with Arafat, insisting that a PA crackdown on violence precede any negotations, the route of the Separaion Barrier, supporting Israel’s war in Lebanon, isolating Hamas & opposing a national unity government, etc.

  20. This also ties into the general argument about the “Lobby,” specifically the lobby would never support – and would exert its influence against – the appointment of any sort of moderate or impartial diplomat to play a major role in mediating between Israel and Palestine. This probably includes you too Dan… 🙂

    This is why I think the whole notion of the “Quartet” seemed on the surface like a good idea as it promised the possibility of impartial diplomatic participation. The US is knee-jerk pro-Israel across the board; the UN usually knee-jerk pro-Palestinian; the EU – despite the idiotic proganda to the contrary – is almost always moderately pro-Israel (though generally anti-occupation) on issues of substance; and Russia has been steadily moving in an anti-American (and thus anti-Israeli) direction since the Bush regime’s “War on Terror.”

    Israel only trusts the US, the Palestinians generally trust the UN (with grievances) and with the EU and Russia serving as intermediaries the idea of the “Quartet” seemed workable. The problem – which is also reflected on the ground between israelis and Palestinians – is the power disparity. The US is by far the most poweful of the Quartet members, the UN by far the weakest; and neither the EU nor Russia view resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a major goal of their diplomatic programs.

  21. John,

    You wrote,

    “the lobby would never support – and would exert its influence against – the appointment of any sort of moderate or impartial diplomat to play a major role in mediating between Israel and Palestine. This probably includes you too Dan…”

    That certainly does NOT include me. I haven’t asked them, but I am pretty sure it does not include APN, Brit Tzedek, Meretz and even IPF, which is the most cautious of these groups. On the contrary, there has not only been vocal, public support of the Quartet’s role among these groups, I happen to know that there were also private communications of encouragement and offers to help key players in the EU and UN. As far as I can tell, there is widespread understanding in the so-called “Zionist left” in the U.S. that, indeed, the kind of neutral and impartial diplomacy you mention is desperately needed.

  22. John,

    You make some very interesting points. I’d recommend you read the end of Mission Statement by Alvaro de Soto, the former UN Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. There’s a lot of fascinating information in the report; one of the interesting details is his discussion of the Quartet. Basically, he argues that the Quartet has been hamstrung by playing to the lowest common denominator, which is defined by the US. The end result is that the Quartet ends up being reluctant to pressure Israel to do anything:

    I disagree with you that the EU & Russia are not interested in Mideast peace. The problem with the Europeans, is that while their diplomatic positions are much closer to the Palestinians than the US (and, I would argue, to international law), they are also extremely reluctant to challenge the United States. One example is the EU’s cooperation with the US in the diplomatic & economic boycott of Hamas, even though many European officials privately acknowledge that it’s been harmful & counterproductive. There’s also the legacy of the Holocaust, which obviously constrains the EU from challenging Israel too forcefully.

    Even the UN’s role in the Middle East is misunderstood. It’s true that General Assembly & various committees (e.g. the Human Rights Commission) are notorious for their obsessive denunciations of Israel. However, these are separate from the UN Secretary General (UNSG), who plays a far more important role in the peace process. One of the points that De Soto makes is that the UNSG, under Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon, has also become increasingly reluctant to challenge Israel, partly to distance themselves from the UN’s anti-Israel reputation, partly to avoid alienating the United States.

  23. Ross and Indyk incline to two different trans- or supranational ethnic Ashkenazi political elites.

    Ross hangs out at the mostly Zionist-Jabotinskian WINEP while Indyk heads the more Zionist-social-patriotist-oriented Saban Center. (I am using the old Polish terminology because more modern terms were long ago drained of meaning.)

    There is no question that their primary loyalties lie with their respective transnational ethnic Ashkenazi political elites and not with the USA, and Malley is being somewhat disingenuous because I remember him from Yale, and he understands a good more about Zionist politics than his article shows.

    There are three basic Zionist positions with regard to the native population of Palestine since the 1890s: bantustanize, expel, or subjugate.

    Obviously the US was not marching in lockstep with Israel during the final negotiations under the Clinton administration but was rather dancing within a debate among Zionists, for the clear interest of the USA is to declare Israel to be a terrorist state (the latest HRW report on Israel in Lebanon substantiates this position).

    At that point the US can work together with Europe to abolish Israel in conformance with basic Euro-American ideological, ethical and pragmatic principles.

  24. Joachim Martillo for Secretary of Health and Human Services! No? How about Secretary of Education? No, I’ve got it: the National Institute of Mental Health

  25. Dan,

    As far as I can tell, there is widespread understanding in the so-called “Zionist left” in the U.S. that, indeed, the kind of neutral and impartial diplomacy you mention is desperately needed.

    Undoubtedly you are correct, however, I think you’ll agree that the more powerful elements of the lobby (AIPAC, ZOA, AJC, &c.) are generally much more Right-leaning than the minority left elements you cite.

  26. BTW – Dan – just in case you misunderstood my intent; I wasn’t saying that you would oppose a moderate diplomatic nominee; but meant that they would oppose you AS a moderate diplomatic nominee. [re: the references to nominating you for a post]

    John S.

  27. Hi Peter,

    Yes, I read the de Soto report within a couple days of its release and agree that it is interesting, particularly his indictment of the Quartet. My comments were more related to the original arguments for the Quartet in the first place; the reason many people were led to believe that it might be useful. Of course in practice it has largely been a rubber stamp for US policy, which is usually pro-Israel policy.

    I disagree with you that the EU & Russia are not interested in Mideast peace.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that they weren’t interested in it, but I do believe it is generally of lesser importance. Both the EU & Russia maintain tolerable relations with Israel as well as Israel’s primary enemies (Syria, Iran, &c.) since they do not adopt the hard line US/Israel stance toward these other countries. While undoubtedly they would like to see Israeli/Palestinian peace, the conflict isn’t much of an impediment to them either. It is for us – because we hold strictly to the hard line position promoted by Israel and its lobby – and it is for the UN, for whom the conflict has been a non-stop embarrassment since the very founding of the organization and of course most of its members represent post-colonial states.

    “The problem with the Europeans, is that while their diplomatic positions are much closer to the Palestinians than the US (and, I would argue, to international law), they are also extremely reluctant to challenge the United States.”

    I agree this is certainly a factor, and for Russia as well. This goes back to the power disparity I made reference to previously.
    However, all said, the EU remains fairly pro-Israel on any issue of substance. The EU remains the primary consumer of Israeli exports, maintains generally friendly ties, and though they are obviously opposed to the occupation, they’re not overly interested in trying to enforce any measures against it.

    A prime example of this is the lack of civil society efforts to force the EU into adopting a more hard line stance (as they did against South Africa). Despite some of the recent boycotts in the UK, all said, if most Europeans were genuinely interested in trying to pressure Israel, European civil society would be much more aggressive and this would push the EU as a body into a stronger position. The will isn’t there because all said, most Europeans are Israel-friendly though not uncritically.

    “However, these are separate from the UN Secretary General (UNSG), who plays a far more important role in the peace process.”

    How so? I’m not aware of the Secretary General playing any significant role at all in Israel/Palestine in general or in the peace process in particular. The Secretary General does have a voice – that is his statements are generally well publicized and noted – but I’m really not aware of ANY substantive role played by the Secretary General in anything. As the UN’s “chief administrative officer” his actual job is little more than what the General Assembly, the Security Council, or other major organs tell him to do. His role as mouthpiece for the Quartet is empty as every year the general Assembly passes a whole series of bundled resolutions on the Israel/Palestine conflict that states the position of the UN. Of course the SC is completely impotent due to the US veto on this issue.

  28. Walt and Mearsheimer’s essay and book are probably the most thoroughly discredited works in history (see this link).

    Oh, and please, no ad hominem attacks (see this link) against the authors of these critiques. if you’re going to open your piehole, find some meat and make an argument like a man, not a drunken cossack, demented leftist, sufferer of this problem, or chimpanzee, if you disagree with the above-linked assessments.

  29. Dan – after your comment, I went back re-read what I originally wrote and realized it wasn’t very clear; sorry about that. Thus the clarification.

    When you have to explain a joke, plainly it wasn’t delivered very well.

  30. I’ve just now started reading the Mearsheimer/Walt book and am about 65 pages into it thus far. For those of us already reasonably well versed on the topic, at least thus far there haven’t been any new revelations or the like, but all said it is an excellent compendium of material. Contrary to those that have suggested that the book will soon be forgotten, I rather suspect it will become almost a “standard” reference work on the topic of pro-Israel lobbying in the United States. Like the works of Benny Morris dealing with al-Nakba, Finkelstein on the topic exploiting the Holocaust for political ends, or Hazony on “post-Zionism,” I suspect the Mearsheimer/Walt book will become a standard reference and citation in critical discussions of pro-Israel lobbying.

    Also, I have finished reading Meron Benvenisti’s newest book, “Son of the Cypresses” – – which is an interesting exploration of the one state reality from a reluctant Zionist perspective. Benvenisti, like Daniel Gavron, is an unrepentant Zionist that seeks to see the secure continuation of Israeli-Jewish culture in Eretz Israel and has reached the conclusion that ultimately this will only be possible by sharing the land with the Palestinians. Although his arguments end up in the one state camp, he is careful to point out that this is not a prescription or an agenda, but simply an honest assessment of the current reality that has to be dealt with. This is a view I hold as well, the one state isn’t some abstract possibility for the future, but an accurate representation of the existing status quo.

    However, I do differ with Benvenisti is several important respects, most dramatically in respect to potential options at this point. As many of you know, I argue for one democratic secular state that rejects the enshrining of collective ethnic group rights in law. Benvenisti completely disagrees with this proposition and looks more to a number of current binational/multinational arrangements that have come into existence over the last couple of decades. Specifically he looks to the power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland, the three-way one state option employed in post-war Bosnia, and the “Annan Plan” for Cyprus. He presents interesting arguments from a unique perspective (being part of the Zionist elite, the “children of the founders,” a kibbutznik, as well as half Ashkenazi and half Sephardic, a former gov’t official, and a true native of Israel/Palestine in every conceivable way). His view is interesting.

    I wasn’t really inspired – at least at this point – to write a comprehensive review of the book (I have a big backlog of new books I’d rather dive into by Mearsheimer/Walt, Naomi Klein, Joel Kovel, Ilan Pappe); however, I did go ahead and post a few selected excerpts and quotes from the book that I found particularly interesting. You can find this over at:

    It’s a short little book, but very well written and well worth your time.


    John S.

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