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US policy and the pro-Israel lobby: A university in Jerusalem takes on the debate

The authors of 'The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy' said Thursday that the special-interest group is leading the charge for attacking Iran and damaging US interests.

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With many eyes in Israel already turned toward the American presidential election this November, questions over what and who is good for the Middle East are fast becoming hot topics.

Warming things up that much more, two academics who have cast a critical light on the nature of US-Israel ties came here Thursday as part of a larger Middle East tour, during which they called on America to end its "special relationship with Israel and treat it as a normal country."

Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, professors at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, respectively, published "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" last fall, raising a maelstrom of reactions: criticism from some corners and praise from others.

In pro-Israel circles, the book is viewed – along with former US President Carter's "Peace Not Apartheid" book – as an attack on a pillar of American foreign policy.

Critics of Profs. Walt and Mearsheimer say that the book and the arguments they make in it has anti-Semitic overtones and paints the pro-Israel lobby in the US as an all-powerful interest group doing damage to American and international interests.

But the two men, who were brought to Israel as guests of the left-wing group Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) and later invited by colleagues to speak at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said their words had often been misread and misinterpreted.

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