MYTH: An “Israel Lobby” Manipulates the United States Government

Former Saudi King Abdullah (pictured above meeting with Secretary Kerry) spent $100 million in a decade lobbying the U.S. government (photo credit: U.S. State Department).

FACT: The United States-Israel relationship is based on common values and interests – not politics. All American citizens have the right to lobby members of Congress to advocate for the issues important to them. Talk of an “Israel Lobby” is a modern twist on an ancient anti-Semitic trope about Jewish manipulation of governments and Jews not being loyal to their country.

On the other hand, Arab countries control a massive lobby in Washington – much bigger than the so-called “Israel lobby.” Unlike the U.S.-Israel alliance, which is based on shared principles and mutual threats, the Arab lobby is based solely on economic interests, primarily oil. Saudi Arabia currently has a $100 billion dollar oil-for-arms deal with the American government. The Saudis spent approximately $100 million in American lobbying interests from 2000-2010 alone, including hiring professional lobbying firms to the tune of $14 million per year. According The Economist, “No Arab ambassador—perhaps no ambassador—has come close to matching [Saudi] Prince Bandar’s influence in the American capital.”

But the Saudis are not alone. Many other Arab countries have cast their lot into Washington as well, including (but not limited to) Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt. The United Arab Emirates spent nearly $11 million on lobbying interests in 2007 and 2008. According to ProPublica, a non-profit, non-partisan agency, four out of the ten biggest spending lobbies were Arab. Israel did not even make the list.

Alliances like these that are based on economic interests usually do not match the views of the American public. Countries like Saudi Arabia abhor human rights and repress democracy – destabilizing the region. According to Hossein Askari, a professor at George Washington University and expert on the subject, “Our marriage to the Al-Sauds threatens our [American] national security.”