Advocating for Israel: Diplomats and Lobbyists from Truman to Nixon. By Natan Aridan. New York: Lexington Books, 2017. x + 357 pp.
Without naming names, Aridan sees his study as contributing to a debunking of recent scholarly work on the power of an Israel lobby in the determination of US foreign policy making. He covers the efforts by Israeli officials and their supporters to shape U.S. policy on the Near East from the late 1940s, prior to Israel's creation in 1948, until 1976. To collect empirical evidence, he undertook laudatory, extensive archival research at various locations in the United States, Israel, and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom. He mined documents in English and Hebrew from a combination of state, academic, press and personal collections, engaged in oral interviews with political and academic figures, and extracted useful information from a long list of secondary sources.
The historical scope of Aridan's work is significant. His narrative is richest for the 1947-1960 period--under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower--which constitutes sixty percent of the book. He amply demonstrates how difficult it was for leaders of the fledgling Israeli state to assert their foreign policy line amidst the cacophony of crucial international and American Jewish organizational actors, Zionists and non-Zionists alike. He correctly points out that, during this time frame, Israeli officials and their lobbyists encountered both difficulty in acquiring economic aid and strong resistance to arms requests. What Aridan fails to highlight is that early Israeli governments, though democratically elected, were all led by the Labor party, which maintained strong links with the Socialist International. Lest one forget, prior to Israel's 1948 creation, Zionist forces acquired their weapons from "Czechoslovakia" (actually, the Soviet Union). Post-independence, Israeli officials consistently refrained from signing off on US-led anti-communist foreign policy undertakings, received weapons from France's Socialist-led government, and as Aridan does note, rebuffed US calls to address the plight of Palestinian refugees and comply with nuclear non-proliferation concerns. Little wonder that Cold War-era Republicans, State Department officials and others remained cool to Israel's requests.
From the early 1950s until 1967, France served as Israel's major supplier of sophisticated weapons, including fighter jets. As regional tension mounted in spring 1967...