Is Israel's influence on US policy waning?

December 11, 2013

During the second half of the last century, American Jews were largely unified in their fundraising and lobbying of U.S. officials on behalf of Israel. This started changing in the 1990s following the Oslo Accords. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks polarized the Israeli political establishment, leading opposition politicians to reach out to their supporters in the U.S. This put into motion a shift from centralized system of support for Israel to one that was personal, says Theodore Sasson, a senior research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis and a professor of International and Global Studies at Middlebury College.

The author of the recently published book, The New American Zionism, Sasson says although American Jews retain a very strong bond with Israel, their personal preferences now often drive their political advocacy and philanthropic support. The once unified voice is now fractured, and it is diminishing Israel's ability to influence U.S. policies. "As American Jews divide their support among rival and competing causes, their influence, in both Washington D.C. and Israel will wane," explains Sasson, who adds that it is already happening. "The failure of the big established Jewish groups in the U.S. to stop the interim agreement with Iran--an agreement that Israel deemed dangerous--may be the first solid evidence of this new reality."

Brandeis University

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