There’s a lot to recommend in Tom Friedman’s column today, especially in regard to Newt Gingrich’s pandering and some of the alarming trends in Israeli society, but this is quite a bit off:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.

I think this is both rhetorically and analytically sloppy. Sure, the pro-Israel lobby directs money to politicians who please them and withholds it from those who don’t, as all lobbies do. But pretending this is the whole story misunderstands the extent to which support for Israel a) is a genuine thing among Americans, and b) has, since 9/11, increasingly been taken on board as an extension of American hawkishness. Netanyahu understands these things better than most Israeli politicians (immediately after the 9/11 attacks, he rightly predicted that they would ”strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades"), and he played to both fairly expertly in his May address to Congress.

Subscribe to Middle East Progress Alerts

Support Middle East Progress

In-Depth Coverage

Original Commentaries

Setting the Record Straight

Determined to Reach a Common Objective

“We knew at the outset that the task would be difficult. We acknowledged that publicly and privately. We knew this would be a road with many bumps— and there have been many bumps—and that continues to this day. But we are not deterred. We are, to the contrary, determined more than ever to proceed to realize the common objective, which we all share, of a Middle East that is at peace with security and prosperity for the people of Israel, for Palestinians, and for all the people in the region. We will continue our efforts in that regard, undeterred and undaunted by the difficulties, the complexities or the bumps in the road.”—George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, September 29, 2010

Middle East Analysis

Upcoming Events

The U.S. Agency for International Development and Conflict: Hard Lessons from the Field

May 17, 2011, 12:00pm – 1:15pm

From Afghanistan and Iraq to Pakistan, Somalia, and South Sudan, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is engaged daily in trying to help some of the most troubled nations on the planet make a lasting transition to stability, open markets, and democracy. Few areas of the agency’s work are more challenging or more controversial.

Join us for remarks by, and a roundtable with, the deputy administrator of USAID, Ambassador