John Mearsheimer gets a lot of invitations to talk about his views.
He doesn’t attribute his popularity to his charm. He’s willing to say publicly what other academics won’t, he said.
Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, pushed for an end to the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel on Tuesday night at the Yale Political Union’s first debate of the year — an argument taken from his best-selling book.
The U.S. government supports Israel more than any other nation, he said — to the tune of $500 per Israeli per year.
“This special relationship is good for neither the U.S. nor Israel, and should be cast aside,” Mearsheimer said. “The U.S. should treat Israel like it treats other democracies.”
Mearsheimer’s view has been called anti-Semitic by some critics. After the release of his book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” which he co-authored with Harvard professor Stephen Walt, a review in The New York Times Book Review called it “dangerously misleading.”
The relationship is bad for Israel, he argued, citing the summer 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war as an example. He attributed some of Israel’s difficulties during the war to the United States’ support.
“The U.S. helped prolong it by delaying a United Nations Security Council resolution for a cease-fire” and by providing “smart bombs” to the Israeli military, he said.
Mearsheimer also discussed Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories of West Bank and Gaza. Even though the United States’ official policy has opposed the construction of settlements, he said, no president has pressed the issue with Israel. Since 1993, Israel has claimed 40,000 acres of land, doubled the number of settlers and built 30 new settlements, he said.
This inaction has sewn anger across the Middle East, which has exacerbated the threat of terrorism aimed at the United States, he said. Israeli settlements may not be in Israel’s best interest, either, he said.
“Israel will continue to build settlements and connecting roads, while the U.S. will continue to support it unconditionally,” which further hinders the peace process, he said.
Without a two-state solution, there are only three possible options for the conflict, according to Mearsheimer: a democratic binational state, or one state with both Israelis and Palestinians; Israeli ethnic cleansing of greater Israel; or what Mearsheimer called “apartheid,” in which Israel increased control over the conflicted areas but denied full rights to the Arab population.
“No one who wishes Israel well would want any of these [options],” Mearsheimer said.
According to Mearsheimer, the situation also contradicts many of America’s guiding principles.
“Israel is a Jewish state, and non-Jews are second-class citizens,” he said. “That kind of discrimination … is antithetical to the American way of life.”
Throughout the discussion, Mearsheimer reiterated that he supports Israel and its right to exist.
“I’m not arguing that the United States should jettison its relationship with Israel completely,” he said.
After Mearsheimer’s speech, some students interviewed — including some who disagreed with him — said his views were well-crafted.
“I think the speech was eloquent and well-balanced,” said Yang Li ’12, who was attending his first YPU general meeting and sat with the Tories then the Conservatives. “Even though I disagree with some of its points, [Mearsheimer] certainly backed things up.”
But Logan Mohs ’11, a member of the Party of the Left, said Mearsheimer did not adequately support his argument.
“I think it was somewhat limited in its coverage of why the United States should end its special relationship,” Mohs said.
Ben Alter ’11, president of Yale Friends of Israel, said Mearsheimer watered down his views for the Yale audience. Many of the opini0ns he expressed in his book are more radical, Alter said.
“I don’t think he really introduced the meat of what he’s known for … like it was the Israeli lobby that made the U.S. go to war in Iraq,” Alter said.
Mearsheimer attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before serving five years in the Air Force. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Southern California and his doctorate at Cornell University.