Fallen Pillars: U.S. Policy towards Palestine and Israel since 1945 / Securing the Covenant: United States-Israel Relations after the Cold War

By Clarke, Duncan L. | The Middle East Journal, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Fallen Pillars: U.S. Policy towards Palestine and Israel since 1945 / Securing the Covenant: United States-Israel Relations after the Cold War


Clarke, Duncan L., The Middle East Journal


Fallen Pillars: U.S. Policy towards Palestine and Israel Since 1945, by Donald Neff. Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1995. xii + 187 pages. Appends. to p. 272. Notes to p. 323. Bibl. to p. 336. Index to p. 350. $15 paper. Securing the Covenant: United States-Israel Relations After the Cold War, by Bernard Reich. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1995. xii + 128 pages. Chron. to p. 153. Notes to p. 158. Bibl. to p. 163. Index to p. 171. $55 paper.

Reviewed by Duncan L. Clarke

Shortly before being asked to review Fallen Pillars, I saw Tad Szulc's scorching review of it in the Washington Post: "deeply flawed," "tendentious," "propagandistic," "harangue," "more Palestinian than the Palestinians."1 Authors and reviewers (including this one) rarely address USIsrael relations with clean slates. Nonetheless, while the views of Donald Neff (and Bernard Reich) are well-known, reviewers should review. Szulc's polemic was virtually devoid of substance.

Following a perceptive historical treatment of the US State Department and the evolution of Zionism in America and, then, the US stance toward the partition of Palestine, Neff examines six categories ("pillars") of US policy toward Israel and Palestine: arms, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and the Palestinians as a people. In every category except the last, Neff chronicles the US government's gradual "embrace" of Israel's policies at the expense of both the Palestinians and, often, American national interests (p. 5). These changes in US policy resulted "largely [from] . . . successful efforts by . . . the Israeli lobby" (p. 4).

Fallen Pillars is among the very best treatments of its subject, and specialists can learn from the book. It is cogently reasoned and well-supported by solid research. Neff utilizes primary source materials extensively, some of which are helpfully reproduced in the appendices. Those with a different normative orientation than Neff should not dismiss this book. Among other things, it raises disturbing questions-sometimes directly, usually implicitly-about the so-called dual loyalty of some American advocates for Israel. Neff provides substantial documentation that could be used (whether by scholars or by bigots) to supplement an assessment of a perception held by almost 40 percent of Americans: that "most" American Jews would back Israel when there is "a fundamental conflict between the national interest of Israel and that of the United States."2 The divisive implications of this issue are self-evident.

One of the book's strengths is its detailed description of the profound impact that a small, yet powerful, ethnic group and its allies-and not just the official lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-has had on almost all elements of US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. No serious student of the subject could disagree. Even Tad Szulc finds the lobby's pervasive influence in Congress and, often, in the White House to be "deplorable."3 However, Neff, a former journalist, could have deflected predictable criticism-that, for instance, he erroneously sees only one factor (the lobby) affecting US-Israel relations-if he had systematically defined the interest group's components and integrated them with greater analytical rigor into the overall American domestic policy process. That is, Neff's knowledge and research, if combined with the methods and training of a political scientist, would have resulted in an even better study.

Bernard Reich tells the reader (p. viii) that Securing the Covenant is neither a detailed examination of the formulation of US policy nor diplomatic history. He's right. This monograph, supported by the Council on Foreign Relations and the MacArthur Foundation, is, with some discordant notes, a song of praise to the US-Israel special relationship, the covenant. The author says that his research is grounded in "official source material" and "interviews" (p. …

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