On Tuesday, Tablet Magazine reported on a new study by the Sunlight Foundation showing that Israel isn’t the foreign country that spends the most on lobbying, as is commonly claimed. Israel isn’t even in the top five. In fact, of the 84 countries surveyed, Israel ranks 83rd in terms of spending on lobbying, spending only $1,250 on lobbying in 2013.
Yair Rosenberg writes in Tablet:
The survey also exposes the double standards of the discourse surrounding the allegedly all-powerful Israel lobby and its purported “stranglehold” on Congress. Last October, Jack Straw, the former foreign minister of the United Kingdom, claimed that the lobby’s “unlimited funds” enable it to dictate American policy in the Middle East. Similar assertions have been advanced by former President Jimmy Carter, and political scientists Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, as well as many less respectable sources. Indeed, discussion of the Israel lobby’s supposedly malign influence is a staple of countless critiques of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Yet somehow, the massive foreign expenditures of other American allies like Saudi Arabia and Germany to sway U.S. policy–which dwarf the purely domestic spending of pro-Israel groups–rarely face similar scrutiny. Only Israel’s comparably meager efforts are repeatedly stigmatized, delegitimized and endowed with sinister overtones.
The logic of singling out the Jewish state for its lobbying, however, is suspect. After all, if Israel’s relatively small outlays are really able to have such a profound impact on U.S. policy, shouldn’t its critics be even more concerned with the exponentially greater sums being spent by other states?
The top five spenders on lobbying America are the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
Ironically, in 2010 Turki al-Faisal, then the director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, said of the pro-Israel lobby, “There has grown over the years a web of very tight and strong strings that bind the US to her client state, Israel. There are live human muppets in Washington here who are run by AIPAC, and unfortunately what they bring is war and suffering.”
Realists such as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer—authors of the controversial book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy—may have to reconsider the influence of Israel on American policy based on this study. They might also have to reconsider whether pressuring Israel furthers America’s interests in the Middle East based on the upheavals in the Middle East in recent years. As editor David Hazony observed in The Only Country Left Standing in the April 2013 of The Tower Magazine, “Whereas once it may have seemed sensible to rely exclusively on the Arab world to promote American interests, today the calculus has begun to shift toward the conclusion that the more strongly and publicly the U.S. makes its support for Israel known … the more opponents and violent enemies will see the U.S., Israel, and other democratic governments as part of a single, indomitable column of free, creative, and strong nations.”
[Photo: Nicholas Raymond / Flickr ]