[FOUNTAIN]The long reach of lobbyists

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[FOUNTAIN]The long reach of lobbyists

Former U.S. congressman Paul Findley used to have a solid pipeline to Arab states when he was in office. The eleven-term Republican representative from Illinois met occasionally with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and called him an “incarnation” of human rights. He was also a frequent critic of Washington’s pro-Israeli policies. In 1982, he lost his bid for re-election, partly because pro-Israeli lobby groups poured donations into his opponent’s campaign. Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, who were both considered pro-Arab, were also ousted by more Israel-friendly candidates.
At the center of the pro-Israeli lobbying activities is Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The message from Aipac to politicians is clear: “If you go against Israel, you will find your job in jeopardy.”
Since 1976, Israel has been the recipient of massive amounts of assistance from the United States. The United States provides direct assistance of $3 billion annually, about one-third of the U.S. foreign aid budget ― about $500 dollars a year in U.S. aid for each Israeli.
The United States’ preferential treatment of Israel is even more evident in diplomacy. Since 1982, the United States has vetoed 32 resolutions by the UN Security Council condemning Israel. Often the United States was the only member of the council to do so.
Why does Washington treat Israel so favorably? In the paper titled “The Israel Lobby,” published in March, Harvard Professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer argued that the pro-Israeli lobby, led by Aipac, is behind the preferential treatment for Israel. The paper rebutted several assumptions about Israel, arguing that it is not a strategic asset to the United States but a strategic burden, and is no longer a David confronted by a Goliath, but a Goliath itself. The paper triggered a furious debate among academics.
Israel’s military campaign against Hezbollah has continued for three weeks now. The Bush administration looks on with a shrug, despite calls for the United States to get involved and broker a ceasefire. Last week, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution overwhelmingly endorsing Israel’s military campaign. How should we interpret this? Is Washington working for the national interests of the United States? The controversy and arguments are likely to continue as long as the American form of democracy is under fire for its addiction to lobbying activities.

by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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