Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2009

A View from the Inside: Congressional Decisionmaking and Arab-Israeli Policy

David Dumke

December 2006

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies


In the post-Vietnam era, the nature of American politics and the congressional role in
foreign policy have been greatly altered. The role of media, money, lobbyists, political
parties, the White House, and Congress-as an institution and as individual members-
have collectively established a system that allows special interests to shape the narratives
of key foreign policy issues and, in turn, manipulate the manner in which Congress
asserts itself. The reaction of the 107th Congress to the second Palestinian intifada, which
began in September 2000, is a case in point: Congress selectively viewed the conflict through
the lens offered by others. The reaction of Congress has little to do with deep-seated bias
toward Israel or instinctive hostility toward Palestinians. Rather, for its own reasons-including
self-serving political calculations-Congress sided with Israel.