The Most Dangerous Ally: How Israel Makes us Fight.

Via Theo Horesh
on Mar 5, 2015
get elephant's newsletter

Israeli PM Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of US Congress

Karl Marx once noted that history always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy the second as farce.

As Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, once more inserts himself into a major American foreign policy debate, it seems that history is repeating itself once more. But the most farcical element of the story this time involves a failure to remember.

This is not the first time Netanyahu has come before Congress in an effort to get America to fight Israel’s wars. The last time Netanyahu lied to Congress so as to put America on a warpath with a major Middle Eastern power was in 2002. “There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking,” noted Netanyahu with smug self-confidence, “and is advancing toward the development of nuclear weapons—no question whatsoever.” [1]

The lie mattered because American intelligence agencies take Israeli intelligence very seriously. But while Bush administration officials have paid a price in diminished esteem for their less confident assertions, Netanyahu appears to have come away unscathed, and this almost certainly has something to do with the Israel lobby.

Perhaps the only way to approach the power of the American Israel lobby is through humor. Consider the Obama administration’s response to his speech before Congress. The leader of a foreign power is actively working to undermine a major foreign policy initiative of a two-term American President, and what does the Obama administration do but confirm its commitment to its meddling junior partner. It reminds me of a joke: what do you call an American politician who substantially criticizes Israel? Ready for retirement. Members of Congress criticized Netanyahu after the speech more strongly than an Israeli leader has probably been criticized in generations. But it is noteworthy what they left out.

If power can be measured by the ability to get others to say and do what you want, then the Israel lobby must be considered stunningly formidable. The lawyer and defender of Israel, Alan Dershowitz, wrote in his memoir that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is but one of many organizations making up the Israel lobby, “is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fundraising effort in the history of democracy.” [2] Of course, one might wonder if this sort of strength is even compatible with democracy. But bragging aside, Fortune ranked them the second most powerful lobby in the country. [3]

Along with several other groups, they have made speaking out against the actions of Israel virtual political suicide. This is worrisome not only because American interests and those of Israel often diverge, but because the Israel lobby has come increasingly to represent the Israeli right and to push America into an aggressive stance toward Muslim countries. It is perhaps for this reason that a 2003 Pew Poll found even 47 percent of Israelis believe U.S. foreign policy favors Israel too much. [4]

And it is not as if Israel has been a loyal ally. According to the General Accounting Office, Israeli espionage against the U.S. is worse than that of any other ally. Their espionage is not only defensive but also involves stealing economic secrets, which give an advantage to Israeli over American firms. [5] Much of the espionage has occurred at the highest levels of government as well. The Bush administration’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of Defense Policy, Douglas Feith, may have been the two officials most responsible for America’s 2003 Iraq War. And they were both investigated at one point in their careers for passing state secrets to Israel. [6] The Iraq War was brought to the American people by neoconservative pundits and officials, who gave unwavering support to Israel and often came to power through Israel lobby organizations. [7]

Israel has actually been quite aggressive with its bigger American ally on numerous occasions as well. After the American military analyst, Jonathon Pollard, was caught giving large quantities of highly classified information to Israel between 1981 and 1985, the Israelis refused to tell the U.S. what exactly he had provided. [8] According to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two of the world’s most respected international relations theorists from Harvard and the University of Chicago, in their devastating analysis, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Israel sold military equipment to Iran during the American hostage crisis in 1978-79 and U.S. based missile systems to China in 2001. [9]

In the 1954 Lavon Affair, Israeli agents attempted to bomb several U.S. government offices in Cairo so as to sow discord between the U.S. and Egypt. [10] And in 1967, Israeli fighter jets shot up the American, U.S.S. Liberty ship, which was clearly marked as American, killing 34 crewmen and wounding 171 others. Crewmen say Israeli jets had been flying so close to the ship all morning that their propellers were rattling the deck, and later investigations of the attack were regarded by the Liberty Veteran’s Association as shallow. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State at the time, Dean Rusk, was “never satisfied with the Israeli explanation,” and considered the attack “outrageous.” [11]

While conspiracies like this can be a rabbit hole, the salient point here is the abundance of evidence against Israel and the unwillingness of officials to take it seriously. Moreover, the attack simply follows a pattern of Israeli aggression that has been on full display in recent weeks. Israeli and American interests regularly diverge and to keep that split from becoming too great, America’s most powerful foreign policy lobby actively works to shape American foreign policy to its own interests. Doing this requires that they exact a heavy price on American politicians speaking out against the actions of the state they represent. And this requires adopting a cynical attitude toward the American people and political system.

But when people are prevented from speaking their consciences, and the reasons for speaking out accumulate, a moment will usually come when the dam just bursts. It is no different for common people and elites. A moment will come when that which has been suppressed rises to the surface, especially when there is so little holding it back. The Israel lobby has worked to suppress vitally important moral and strategic political speech for generations and appears to be losing its grip. If the Netanyahu speech was just an opening act, the fire next time may prove neither tragic nor farcical but a complete inferno.



The Mouse That Swallowed the Elephant: How Israel Governs America.



1.  Netanyahu was wrong about Iraq having nuclear weapons

2. As reported in, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Farrar, Straus, And Giroux. 2008.


4.  The U.S. Public’s Pro-Israel History

5. Weaknesses in U.S. Security Arrangements With Foreign-Owned Defense Contractors 

6. Paul Wolfowitz Wikipedia PageReydeyo/Douglas J. Feith

7. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Farrar, Straus, And Giroux. 2008.

8. Jonathan Pollard Wikipedia page 

9. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Farrar, Straus, And Giroux. 2008.

10. Lavon Affair Wikipedia page 

11. USS LIberty Incident 


Author: Theo Horesh

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Washington Post







About Theo Horesh

Theo Horesh is the author of Convergence: The Globalization of Mind and The Inner Climate: Global Warming from the Inside Out, a book of interviews with leading thinkers, like Frances Moore Lappe, George Lakoff, Paul Ehrlich, Andrew Revkin, and Peter Senge. He is a former cooperative organizer and host of the Conscious Business podcast, which was recently chosen by the Business Insider as one of 100 podcasts that will make you smarter and more successful. He has been meditating for 25-years and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. You can connect with him on Facebook, here. Theo's new book, The Inner Climate is now available for purchase!


24 Responses to “The Most Dangerous Ally: How Israel Makes us Fight.”

  1. Padma Kadag says:

    In your opening quote from BiBi speaking to Congress regarding Saddam's WMD program, he went on to say that taking down Saddam's regime would have an overall positive effect on the region and that Iran would fall. He is an idiot. A dangerous one.

  2. Mark says:

    Generally speaking I agree with you on all points. But, Israel lives in a bad neighborhood and is the only democracy in the region. I have traveled there once and in that region a few times. All of Israel's neighbors openly say the only thing they will settle for is the death of Israel. That's the kind of language that get a person a fat lip and an eye swollen shut. Just sayin.. I wish level heads would prevail in that whole region but, I'm not holding my breath. If a major war breaks out Israel has said they WILL go nuclear before they allow themselves to be overrun. That would be the worst kind of horrendous. People just can't get along.. It's frustrating and a lot of innocent people get caught in the melee.

  3. Israeli girl says:

    I'm the last person to support Bibi. He's been a terrible prime-minister to our country and made countless damage, inside Israel and out.
    Then again, claiming that he pushed Bush into the war in Iraq – I mean, come on, man. Yeah, Israel isn't the best example for a peace-seaking country under Bibi's leadership (to say the least), but trying to paint a picture in which America is a poor, innocent lamb being unwillingly led into wars by Israel, is an insult for your own country.

  4. lillyharari says:

    I know Israel bashing is very in right now,, but to say that Israel *makes* the U.S. fight is just a ridiculous and sensational title. The U.S. has been at war for almost the entirety of its existence. It quite obviously doesn't need any help from Israel in this regard. I also am so sick of everyone holding this country to a different standard from our own. The U.S. has been responsible for killings, displacement of indigenous peoples, and land grabbing for centuries, and those effects are still being grievously felt by Native Amercians countrywide. Israel may instigate some ridiculous and untoward policies but keep in mind where these people are coming from. They have a bloody history of living in Palestine (usually without rights and at the whims of the Arab population), enemies who border them and regularly call for their deaths and drop bombs on them, and a recent history of genocide to keep them wary and on-guard. Perhaps instead of jumping on the bandwagon of fear-mongering and Israel-bashing (especially while painting the U.S. as some poor duped victim), we could approach the entire Middle East with more compassion and understanding…I mean isn't that what this website is supposedly about?

  5. Theo Horesh says:

    You present a powerful metaphor that is unfortunately premised on several inaccuracies. The Saudis set forth a peace plan in 2002, signed by all Arab League states, which would create a peace treaty and trade pact that fully normalized relations with Israel in exchange for an end to the occupation and a fair resolution to the right of return. Though the plan has been repeatedly laid at the feet of the Israelis, they have not engaged the offer in any way. So while some people in the states bordering Israel may like to see it disappear, the leaders themselves are ready for peace. And no states have attacked Israel since 1973.

    You also state inaccurately that Israel is the only democracy in the region. But since Israel does not actually define its borders, and finances the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories, we must conclude that about half the adult population under its administration cannot vote – hardly the definition of a democracy. Meanwhile, nearby Turkey is a thriving but corrupt democracy with universal suffrage. Iran also has universal suffrage, though like the US has had a recent stolen election, and the President and Parliament are weak. Tunisia to the west is a fledgling democracy that looks like it will succeed according to most analysts. Lebanon, directly to the north of Israel, maintains the shell of a democracy that has at times functioned but has been wrought with civil war for which Israel bears much of the responsibility. In spite of what Israelis repeat ad infinitum and what the mainstream media senselessly echoes, Israel is not a full democracy and it is certainly not the only one in the region.

  6. Theo Horesh says:

    Israel's biggest supporters in the U.S suggest the Israel lobby is far more powerful than you do. Newt Gingrich calls the American Israel Public Affairs Committee the most powerful lobby in the world, while Alan Dershowitz calls it the most powerful in the history of democracy. They are, of course, bragging, but the oft cited Fortune ranking, along with one from the National Journal, say it is the second most powerful in the country.

    The similarly ranked National Rifle Association makes it political suicide for most national politicians to speak of outlawing hand gun ownership, while the American Association of Retired Persons makes it political suicide for most politicians to speak on ending social security. Why is it so strange to think that the most powerful foreign policy lobby would have such a grip over America's actions in the Middle East?

    Most of the neoconservative foreign policy columnists in the U.S. started out in Israel lobby organizations and their positions are sustained through lobby organized letter writing campaigns and attacks on editors. Meanwhile, critics of Israel are not hired and are often fired from their positions through the same means. The top two Bush officials advocating war in Iraq were so close to Israel that they were tried for what under ordinary circumstances would have been called treason. And clearly Netanyahu pushed the U.S. into war with Iraq. Meanwhile, he did not advocate war with Iran in his speech to Congress, but he has in the past, and that was the only direction his logic indicated.

    Finally, we should consider why the War on Terror, which has gotten the U.S. embroiled in so many Middle Eastern countries started – the bombing of the World Trade Towers. According to Bin Laden in several videos, they were bombed for three reasons: America's devastating sanctions on Iraq, maintaining troops in Saudi Arabia, and supporting Israel's occupation. But analysts and people close to Bin Laden say it was the occupation that really got him worked up. I could write a book about all the ways the Israel lobby pushes the U.S. into a militant stance against the Muslim Middle East. These reasons are ideological, religious, and ethnocentric, and they pervade the America landscape. Fortunately, two of the world's most respected, mainstream realist scholars of international relations have already written "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." It is one of the most logical, careful, and well documented books I have ever read. Others intrigued by these arguments should check it out.

  7. leslie says:

    The actions of the Israeli government and AIPAC need to be revealed, speaking truth isn't "bashing". Money needs to be extricated from politics. This article does not paint the US as a victim, except maybe the PEOPLE of the united states as being a victim of a deceptive and money driven political system, as are the people of the middle east…I'd say that's pretty compassionate and understanding.

  8. Nara says:

    Israel lives in a bad neighborhood by choice. They have illegally grown their country by destroying the lives of millions of Palestinians. They have refused and form of equality regarding the palestinians. By not ending the occupation they are the strongest reason of regional instability! Why would any other country in their vicinity want to work with a country that can indiscriminately bomb a civilian population under siege? And it's easy for Israel to continue to provoke regional instability for its own personal gain while the U.S. foots the bill. It's time we start forcing Israel to take measurable steps towards peace instead of constantly using false flags and fear tactics to justify apartheid.

  9. heidii67 says:

    Netenyahu was wrong about Iran Iraq having nuclear weapons!

    Published 9/21/12

  10. leslie says:

    This is just another example of many as to why money must be extricated from United States politics. As Bill Moyer recently wrote "the US cannot determine its own policy in the Middle East and the majority in Congress are under the thumb of a foreign power." Our relationship with Israel is a pathologic and symbiotic affair, they get regional dominance, we get steady supply of regional resources and buyers for our weapons and a great testing ground for them in Gaza. But this relationship has gone on too long and there is so much damage and suffering that has been wrought to so many. This is not Israel bashing, this are the facts, the truth, the history that we all need to know, or risk its perpetuation.

  11. heidii67 says:

    Netenyahu was wrong about Iran Iraq having nuclear weapons!
    Published 9/21/12

  12. heidii67 says:

    The real existential threat to Israel

    In his Congress address on Iran, Netanyahu failed to mention the one thing that endangers Israel’s ability to survive as a Jewish and democratic state…: the unending occupation of the territories. Israel’s insistence on ruling over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank who lack civil rights, expanding the settlements and keeping residents of the Gaza Strip under siege is the danger that threatens its future.

  13. heidii67 says:

    Massive leak reveals South African intel on Mossad’s ‘true’ assessment on nuclear Iran
    The cables detailed missives from the Mossad to its allies saying that Iran was unable to produce nuclear weapons – a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that such capability was within a year.
    They also describe attempts by the CIA to contact Hamas directly, even as the U.S. government listed the Palestinian group as a “terrorist organization.”

  14. heidii67 says:

    Bombed the King David hotel and tried to blame Arabs, bombed SS Patria and to try to blame on the Arabs, USS liberty then the Lovan affair….etc

  15. Barry Ackerman says:

    A great, well referenced article. Stating the obvious in a not in your face way. Lies are part of the way that countries are ruled, but I am sick to death of Netanyahu using his brand to create instability in Palestine in particular. He must be mad to think that the world buys his nonsense. I agree that the US is an aggressor nation but he is a callous, liar, a war mongering murderer who steals land and shoots at innocent civilians – today a Palestinian fisherman was killed – oh yes he was fishing on a Palestinian submarine and he was shielding Hamas soldiers – I forgot! Ridiculous lies this man tells, he is not interested in a peaceful solution. He wants war. War justifies his existence. He has not fooled the Jews of Iran who live a peaceful life. He creates friction wherever he goes – a calculated plan, aimed at sewing discord so that he can say, “I told you so”. Sadly there are Zionists who believe and follow him, in Israel and the US, sadly in my country (UK) as well. Christian Zionist follow his every word – waiting to be recognised, sad wannabees. The world has woken up, we do not fall for his nonsense, branding people as anti-Semitic because they are anti-Zionist is a load of nonsense. Jews do not have the monopoly or exclusive rights to suffering – that card is worn out! Zionists must wake up – the world has woken up!

  16. ChaosEject says:

    Israel is the little puppy dog that barks at all the neighbours, knowing that the US guard dog will get it out of trouble.

    That situation is long overdue for change.

  17. Kat says:

    You definitely bring up very important facts in this excellent article. We’ve heard Netanyahu speak regarding the same issue, his false claims of Iraq having WMD! Unfortunately US went into war with Iraq! And now history is repeating itself and Netanyahu is claiming the same. He claims he wants peace but that’s definitely not what he wants.

  18. Helen says:

    Mark to say that Israel is the only democracy in the region, this quote sums up what many feel.

    ‘When people say that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, Imalways think, before Israel we had no enemies in the Middle East’.

    As for the bad neighbourhood idea, we can liken Israel to the new boy in the schoolyard, yelling about being bullied while landing blows on all while stealing lunches.

  19. Maura Yasin says:

    My former Congressman from VA’s 8th District was attacked by Zionists when he dared to explain in a town hall that following Israel’s advice was the reason we were being hounded and even lied to in order to go to war in Iraq. Even if he is retired, it’s never too late to feel redemption. Former Rep. Jim Moran should be feeling pretty proud right now that his was a uncommon and at that time controversial vote AGAINST going to war in Iraq. Others in Congress finally seem to be growing a spine to face up to Israel and now be cowed with blackmail from the Zionist Lobby.

  20. littleninja says:

    Theo Koresh hits the nail on the head repeatedly in his article. Israel is no friend of America and has used its considerable lobbyists to work against the interests of America and its tattered foreign policy.

  21. Asim Ghani says:

    Israel's even half a democracy.
    If in "the Declaration of the State of Israel" of May 14, 1948, it's Founders solemnly pledge that Israel would have a constitution in place "no later than the first day of October, nineteen hundred and forty-eight." Israel can't be a democracy if in the period in question, if goes on, instead, to invade and occupy territory assigned by the United Nations to the Palestinians in an unfair settlement: only 46 of Mandate Palestine given to the Arab majority which controlled nearly 90 percent of the territory.
    So what about the constitution? If some democracy goes back on its pledge to have a constitution, is it deserved still a democracy? Periodic elections don't in themselves constitute democracy, nor do Israel's "Basic Laws"–especially if pseudo-democratic Israel is in occupation of so much of territory of what was left of Palestine.
    There's something I can never forget on a personal level: that Palestine had been an Arab country in my own lifetime: I was exactly two years, nine months and three days old when the pledge was made in Tel Aviv that Friday.

  22. conor cusack says:

    A really interesting piece. Credit to the writer for presenting a fresh look at the relationship between the US and Israel. It makes me feel more confident to speak out for the Palestinians as I feel they are the real victims here. We should consider ending default support for Israel and default funding too. Maybe then Israel that the US wants them to work for a just peace instead of continuing with what looks to many of us like oppressive actions against Palestinians.

  23. Paavo K. says:

    It is amazing to see how this PR-mantra 'the only democracy in the Middle East' has survived in peoples' minds, even when it has become more than obvious that Israel has very little to do with a democracy the way we normally understand it. All in all, this is best taken as an example of the efficiency of the PR-stunts developed by Israel for the media, simple slogans which remain alive in the mind of people not really making an effort to pursue the truth.

  24. Nevo says:

    Theo coming down from evolved and in depth understanding of any conflicts between humans that always always start from within… and speaking now on the level of nations – Israel is a democracy for those who wish to be part of it. What is so hard to understand there?
    during the 6 days war 1967 which was a clear all Arab join attempt to destroy Israel (so what if Israel pre emptied attack? the war was closing in and it was a smart move to take the battle away from Israel) Israel sent Jordan a clear message – stay out, don't attack and we will do the same.
    if King Husein did not attack Old Jerusalem and west bank would still be under Jordanian territory and we would not have the occupation over the west bank.

    What choice was Israel left with? deport all the Palestinians to Jordan? ask the UN to take over this area? the UN just fled from Sinai when Naser ordered them to, they can't be a reliable buffer zone.
    Immediately after the war Israel offered Egypt and Syria the Sinai and Golan heights back in return for peace and negotiation with Jordan over the west bank area. Only Jerusalem was not Negotiable. what was the answer of the Arab world? the three famous no's… No recondition of Israel, no peace, no negotiation.

    This occupation is more like lack of choice then premeditated apartheid intention.

    So my conclusion is that yes Israel is a democratic state for those who recognize it and wish to be part of it.