This scholarly work by one of world's leading Arab academics focuses on the question of the close relationship between the United States and Israel, specifically the roots of this highly privileged relationship. It presents a non-polemical discussion over such questions as whether Israel is a burden or an asset to U.S. strategic interests in the region, drawing on scholarly and journalistic writing by most of the recognized authorities on the subject.
Indeed, it is perhaps the most comprehensive review of literature on the subject to date, organized and categorized in a highly readable fashion. It reviews the evolution of Israel's strategic role and a wide range of issues, including the various Arab-Israeli wars, the Camp David process, domestic sources of U.S. policy and other subjects.
Readers without a strong social-science background may have problems with some of the complex graphs and algebraic formulas Mansour employs to illustrate his analysis, yet these are infrequent, and a lack of full understanding would not detract from an adequate appreciation of his main arguments.
One of the book's strongest aspects is its examination of cultural factors that lead to the traditional U.S. pro-Israel and anti-Arab bias. Mansour argues that the strong identification most Americans feel with Israel and the Jewish community in the United States, combined with the lack of such identification with the Arab/Islamic world, are major factors in shaping
U.S. perceptions of the conflict. This section could have been stronger still if he had also examined the broader institutional structures that reinforce Americans' cultural biases on North-South issues in general.
There are some more serious problems with his analysis. While Mansour generally presents most sides fairly and without editorial comment, he offers a rather simplistic version of explanations that interpret the U.S.-Israeli relationship in terms of U.S. imperialism. While he correctly challenges the inadequacy of this approach in its cruder forms, his analysis comes across as superficial, despite his rather lengthy treatment of this approach. Indeed, the author fails to mention any of the left-Zionist critiques that argue how the close relationship with the United States has seriously damaged Israel. Overall, his reliance on establishment actors precludes examination of the more interesting-and often more plausible-theories by radical analysts in both the United States and Israel. For example, there is no mention of critiques of U.S.-Israeli relations by such authors as Ronald Young, Cheryl Rubenberg, Noam Chomsky, Matti Peled, Uri Avneri and myself.
In addition, while Mansour correctly challenges the exaggeration by some proponents of Israel's value as a strategic asset for the United States, he ends up not giving enough emphasis to this key component of the relationship. This sterns in part from his assumptions about U.S. foreign policy, which assume a rather benign intent, particularly in his discussion of the Carter administration. Mansour does not seriously consider, for example, the more Machiavellian aspects of U.S. diplomacy, namely that the United States may not really want a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, but a pax Americana, an equilibrium where things do not get so out of hand as to encourage radical forces, but where there is still enough tension to require a U.S. role. For example, Mansour talks extensively about the idea of Guarantees Linked to Settlement (GLS), proposals for formal security guarantees for Israel by the United States in return for a comprehensive settlement. However, he only cites GLS opponents who argue that the guarantees would limit Israeli options, not how they would limit U.S. prerogatives in the region.
While not exaggerating the role of the pro-Israel lobby as much as some authors, Mansour still appears to take an overly-pluralistic view of foreign-policy decision making. In addition, his discussion of domestic pressure for a pro-Israeli policy focuses almost exclusively on the Jewish community and liberal apologists, while not recognizing the power of other more influential backers of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, such as the military-industrial complex and right-wing forces, including Christian fundamentalists. Similarly, he fails to separate Americans' strong moral commitment to Israel from widespread popular concerns in the United States about the actions of successive Israeli governments. While most Americans are indeed strongly committed to a U.S. role as guarantor of Israel's survival, only a small minority believes this translates into giving Israel a blank check for its longstanding disregard for human rights and international law.
Despite these problems, however, Beyond Alliance is arguably the best, and certainly the most comprehensive, recent book on the subject of U.S.-Israeli relations. Indeed, it will likely remain for some time the definitive study on the subject and is a must-read for anyone concerned with the dynamics of U.S.-Israeli relations.