Ethnic Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Mohammed E. Ahrari | Go to book overview

on a wide range of religious, ethnic, and social groups for support on most issues and has not only achieved several of its objectives, but also succeeded in stopping the Reagan administration from selling any additional weapons to Arab states for the remainder of the president's first term.


CONCLUSION

The picture that emerges from the case studies is that the Israeli lobby can exert influence on Middle East policy, but that the degree of influence is constrained by other domestic variables. The lobby succeeded in placing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment on the legislative agenda and having it adopted; however, that success was a function not only of lobby pressure, but also of the relative political weakness of both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, who both faced large, hostile Democratic majorities in Congress. Nixon also enjoyed little public popularity. The issue also coincided with the electoral cycle, exaggerating the influence on the informal component of the Israeli lobby. The Israeli lobby's position was also favorable relative to its competition; that is, it enjoyed the balance of lobbying power, since its main opposition came from business interests that were far less cohesive and lacked the informal lobby influence of the Israeli lobby. Business lobbyists were also more concerned with the passage of the trade bill than with the defeat of Jackson-Vanik.

The AWACS case was entirely different. In that debate the Israeli lobby faced a newly elected president in a strong political position with a high level of public support and a Senate majority who had set the legislative agenda himself. In addition, the Israeli lobby was opposed by an Arab lobby that had grown significantly in size and sophistication over the preceding decade and that was able to successfully build an unprecedented coalition to lobby for the sale. Even with these disadvantages the Israeli lobby still was able to force the administration to expend a large amount of political capital and make some concessions in order to turn the vote around at the last minute.

These two cases suggest that there is a balance of lobbying power and that the lobby that enjoys the advantage, in both cases the Israeli lobby, will be able to exert influence on foreign policy decisions that require congressional approval. More generally, it appears that the type of policy will have a bearing on a lobby's influence. Those policy types that allow interest groups the highest degree of access will be most subject to their influence.

In order to reach a more complete understanding of the role of interest groups in the formation of foreign policy, research must go beyond the current focus on group membership and explore methods of measuring the political resources of interest groups and the balance of lobbying power that exists between competing groups. We must also try to further develop the policy typology as a means of predicting outcomes rather than simply as a mechanism for describing political processes.

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