WASHINGTON Senator Obama may have distanced himself from a book criticizing the Israel lobby, but a prominent Harvard law professor and Senator Clinton ally says the Illinois lawmaker needs to go a step further and repudiate his newest foreign policy adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
The Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz, has emerged as a chief critic of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a new book in which authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that a powerful coalition of individuals and organizations has pushed America into supporting Israel in ways that undermine its national interests.
The book has drawn widespread scorn from the pro-Israel community, and it appears to have divided Mr. Obama and Mr. Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Carter who recently joined the Illinois senator's presidential campaign. Mr. Brzezinski will be with Mr. Obama as the candidate delivers a major policy address on Iraq today in Iowa.
Amid a firestorm over an initial working paper Messrs . Mearsheimer and Walt published last year on the Israel lobby, Mr. Brzezinski rose to their defense, even as he demurred on the question of whether he agreed with their central arguments. The authors, he wrote in the journal Foreign Policy, "have rendered a public service by initiating a much-needed public debate on the role of the Israel lobby' in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy."
Mr. Obama's campaign took the opposite route earlier this week when notified that an ad for its Web site appeared on the Amazon.com page of the Mearsheimer-Walt book. The campaign immediately removed the ad, saying its placement was unintentional, and issued a statement saying Mr. Obama believed the arguments in the book were "just wrong." "I'm glad he's done that, but now he has to dissociate himself from Brzezinski," Mr. Dershowitz said in an interview yesterday. He said the Mearsheimer-Walt book was "a bigoted attack on the American Jewish community" and that Mr. Brzezinski's comments in Foreign Policy last year amounted to an endorsement.
Through an assistant, Mr. Brzezinski declined repeated requests to be interviewed yesterday about his views on the book and Mr. Obama. He endorsed the first-term senator last month, praising his long-running opposition to the Iraq war and offering a high-profile boost to a candidate who has struggled at times to combat the perception that he is inexperienced in foreign policy.
Mr. Dershowitz, who has contributed $1,000 to Mrs. Clinton's campaign and is supporting her candidacy, said his criticism of Mr. Brzezinski extended beyond the Mearsheimer-Walt book to what he said was Mr. Brzezinski's broader "anti-Israel" rhetoric in recent years. The former Carter aide was highly critical of Israel during its war last year with Hezbollah in Lebanon, at one point saying its actions amounted to "the killing of hostages."
Mr. Dershowitz said that while Mr. Obama has been a strong supporter of Israel, he "made a terrible mistake" by bringing on Mr. Brzezinski, which he attributed to "na๏vet้."
In response, the Obama campaign released a statement from one of its top supporters in the Jewish community, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida. "Barack Obama has been a consistent supporter of Israel and this is an unfortunate case of a fabricated controversy for political reasons," he said. "I speak with him often on Israel policy, and I can tell you firsthand that Barack Obama is opposed to the arguments presented in this book."