Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
It is hard to overstate the role Israel plays in US politics. For instance, over half of all US vetoes in the UN Security Council in the period 1946–2012 were made to stop resolutions critical of Israel (p. 5). One would assume, from this, that US support for Israel is deep-rooted. As Eric Alterman shows, this is not the case. If we look below the surface Israel is a topic of dispute in US campuses, amongst political activists, and amongst the demographic that is usually assumed to be most supportive of Israel, American Jews. Alterman focuses chiefly on this last group, but his analysis is far broader. In somewhat simplified terms, he tells a story of a development from a thoroughly positive discourse on Israel based on the myth created by Leon Uris’ Exodus, to one where Israel has become increasingly tied to the Republican party, right wing mega-donors such as Sheldon Adelson and the Evangelical movement. Paradoxically, the result of this development is that US political support for Israel has increased while critical debates about Israeli policy in the United States has intensified. The Likud party and the Republican party have become so closely tied that bipartisan support for Israel is weakening. This leaves the reader wondering whether there will be a breaking point when changes in popular perceptions of Israel will force the US government to change its Israel policy. Alterman’s analysis of developments in the US–Israel debate is extensive, albeit somewhat exhausting. The amount of terrain covered is so massive that it occasionally diverts attention from the main lines of the argument.