dinsdag 5 januari 2010

Lobbies kunnen doorbraak niet forceren of verhinderen

De twee auteurs werken aan een antwoord op de omstreden "Israel lobby" mythes die door o.a. Mearsheimer en Walt populair zijn gemaakt.
Ze betogen in onderstaand artikel dat het een fictie is dat lobby groepen echte invloed hebben op politieke ontwikkelingen en regeringsbeleid van bijv. de VS.
Doorbraken vinden plaats als de politieke situatie daarvoor rijp is en de economische ontwikkeling daarom vraagt.
Last update - 08:44 31/12/2009 
Why lobbies don't matter
By Yossi Shain and Neil Rogachevsky

The signing of a peace treaty between Armenia and Turkey in October was a little-noticed milestone. Since the Ottomans deported and murdered Armenians in World War I in what Armenians and much of the world call the Armenian Genocide, Armenians have not been fond of Turkey. For its part, Turkey has long disputed both the genocide and the Armenian presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan, a close Turkish ally. Though signed pledges do not guarantee peace, the U.S.-brokered pledges to reestablish ties and open borders could well prove to be the beginning of the end of this intractable conflict.

The pledges were made in the face of some resistance in both countries, but particularly among the Armenian diaspora and its leaders. The so-called "Armenian lobby," which was thought in the 1990s to determine both U.S. and Armenian government policy in the Caspian Sea, staunchly opposed the deal and mobilized the community against it. In Los Angeles the week before the signing, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was confronted by around 12,000 protesters. One prominent Armenian-American declared the agreement "the latest entry in the ledger of crimes committed, and covered up, against the Armenian nation." Nevertheless, opposition from the Armenian Diaspora did not stop Turkey and Armenia from coming to terms.

The Armenian lobby's failure to block the treaty is instructive when one considers that other mythically powerful diaspora group known as the "Israel lobby." The Israel lobby has long been thought to exert vast influence on U.S. policy in the Middle East. In the extreme version of this view, it is only the foot-dragging of hawkish pro-Israel groups like AIPAC that has stymied American efforts to improve the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Many believers in the power of lobbying have expressed hope that new dynamics in the American Jewish community could shift U.S. policy in the Middle East. Finally, there is a president who has pledged a more "evenhanded" policy between Israelis and Palestinians, and the American Jewish community remains firmly in his camp. Furthermore, a new dovish Israel lobby called J Street, which held its inaugural conference in November to great fanfare, was formed with the explicit task of supporting U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East policy - or in the words of J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, "to be the president's blocking back."

In short, if ever there were a time in which America could "change course" in the Middle East, it would seem to be now. Obama, supported by J Street and the American Jewish community at large, can lean on Israel with no domestic political cost, so American policy in the Middle East can finally become more rational and effective.

But so far, there has not been much progress. A year into Obama's term, the situation in the Middle East - particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian front - looks as intractable as before. The parties remain as far from each other as ever on the so-called "core issues" such as the future of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah faction has said he will not run for a new term. Without him, Fatah's control over the West Bank, tenuous at the best of times, could become still weaker.

Over in Gaza, Hamas is deepening its control and does not seem to be moderating its position with the necessities of governing, as some experts had hoped. Meanwhile, Israel's settlements in the West Bank, thought by some to be an obstacle to peace, continue their "natural growth." If there is progress on Israel-Palestine any time soon, it doesn't seem that it will come by way of U.S. diplomacy.

Both the successful signing of an Armenian-Turkish accord and the inability of Israelis and Palestinians to achieve one indicates that the power of lobbies to influence events, and even U.S. policy, has been highly exaggerated. The Armenian diaspora could not stop the Armenian government from concluding a deal. Despite its alleged power on Capitol Hill, the Armenian lobby could not dent American enthusiasm for blessing this new opening in the Caucasus. Earlier, it had been thought that the Armenian lobby was hindering an accord. But it turns out the moment for such an accord was just not right. Now, with Turkey's serious push for European Union membership and Armenia's desire to benefit from the end of the Turkish blockade, conditions have become favorable for a deal.

Similarly, the Obama administration faces no politically relevant opposition from American Jews on its Middle East policy. But no progress has been made, despite this administration's new orientation, because the sides aren't ready. The situation, to use the old phrase, is not ripe. Ignorance of those conditions could lead one to believe that a little bit of lobbying can make all the difference - and to a vast over-estimation of the power of ethnic lobbying over U.S. policy. But, happily or unhappily, reality has other ideas.

With all the attention on lobbying, shuttle diplomacy and the like, genuine small achievements in Israel-Palestine have gone unnoticed. Checkpoints have been removed in the West Bank, the Palestinian economy in the West Bank has grown steadily, and robust civil society, slowly but surely, continues to grow in the West Bank. These encouraging signs may one day make the situation ripe for agreement. Should that materialize, let's not allow any lobbying organizations to take much credit for it.
Prof. Yossi Shain heads Tel Aviv University's Hartog School of Government. Neil Rogachevsky is a doctoral student at Georgetown University. The two are writing a book on American foreign policy and the myth of the Jewish lobby.

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