The enduring bond between the United States and Israel stems from principles, experiences, and views about history and world affairs—some shared, some divergent—that have shaped the two nations. The widespread misunderstandings of that special relationship—and the often ill-conceived, if well-meaning, policies that the United States has adopted in pursuit of Middle East peace—frequently originate in the failure to grasp those principles, experiences, and views.

Over the last generation, the most dramatic and influential of these misunderstandings—at least in ostensibly respectable intellectual circles—was elaborated in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007) by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of the University of Chicago and Harvard University, respectively. A New York Times bestseller, the book grew out of their 2006 London Review of Books essay.

The Israel lobby thesis came of age in the wake of America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. The authors sought to explain why U.S. Middle Eastern policy since the 1973 Yom Kippur War supposedly often placed Israel’s interests ahead of America’s. The very notion of a great power acting contrary to its interests confounded Mearsheimer and Walt’s “realist” school of international relations. Their academic realism holds that the logic of geopolitics defines nations’ interests

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