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The Iran deal shows limits of the 'Jewish Lobby' argument.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- The majority of Arab and Muslim critics of American foreign policy have long believed that one of the most important problems in Washington's approach to the Middle East has been the overwhelming influence of the pro-Israel lobby. In its vulgar and anti-Semitic versions, this familiar line of thinking sometimes gains a nasty conspiratorial tilt with the accusation that a Jewish "cabal" is behind all critical decisions.

Turkey, despite being a NATO ally, is certainly not immune to such conspiracies often verbalized by the upper echelons of the political class. A much less conspiratorial, yet nevertheless reductionist, version of the argument is shared by left-wing critics of American administrations. In its most sophisticated and academic form, this criticism of the power of the pro-Israel lobby has even been endorsed by Ivy League professors such as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

Sometimes called the Jewish lobby -- wrongly, in my opinion because not all American Jews are supportive of Israel -- the pro-Israel lobby is indeed a very powerful actor in Congress and exerts significant influence over the administration through the presence of organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It is also important to note that the pro-Israel lobby is demographically much larger than the 6 million Jewish community of the United States, mainly thanks to the support of the Christian right and particularly to more than 40 million staunch supporters of Israel in the evangelical segments of American society.

However, influence does not mean dominance or control. The journey of the Iran deal is a case in point. The Iran deal, which last week managed to pass all legislative hurdles in Congress despite staunch opposition from all republicans and the pro-Israel lobby, shows that American diplomacy is much more resourceful than what critics believe it to be. What the Iran deal shows is that a determined and strategically astute American president can overcome even the most aggressive tactics of the Israel lobby and of Israel itself. The unprecedented nature of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress just a few months ago comes to mind as a clear example of how hard the lobby and Israel fought against the Iran deal. AIPAC went to great lengths on the political and financial consequences of supporting the deal for members of Congress. Yet, at the end of the day, the lobby failed. It is time to take stock for the conspiracy theorists who have been tirelessly making the point that the "Jewish lobby" controls and shapes American foreign policy.

There are at least two points to which the conspiracy theorist convinced about their omnipotent Israel lobby argument should pay attention. One is history. This is not the first time the lobby failed to get what it wanted. AIPAC feuded with Jimmy Carter in 1978 over his plan to sell F-15 Eagle fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and three years later battled with Ronald Reagan over the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWAKS) reconnaissance planes for the Saudis. The group lost both times and suffered a similar defeat when George Bush opposed loan guarantees for Israel in 1991. The second, the lobby is only one actor among many attempting to influence American foreign policy. Congressional deal-making is primarily about the competition of different lobbies. Yes, the Israel lobby is very powerful. But the same can be said about the "oil lobby" or the "arms lobby."

In fact, the financial power of energy companies and defense companies far outweigh the firepower of the Israel lobby. And guess where the main market for energy companies and the arms industry is? Of course, the Arab Middle East and particularly the Gulf. This is why, instead of constantly talking about Jewish cabals or the influence of the Israel lobby, time criticizing US foreign policy would be much better spent if we focus on the role of money in American politics and the need to engage in serious campaign finance reform.

EuMER TAE[currency]PINAR (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Sep 14, 2015
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