It is therefore gratifying to observe the emergence of J Street, to see groups like Americans for Peace Now and Jewish Voice for Peace become more vocal, and to see writers like Peter Beinart and David Remnick take public stances that are substantially different from ones they might have expressed a few years ago.
Needless to say, these shifts weren't our doing. Events in the region -- especially the 2006 Lebanon war of 2006, the 2008-2009 Gaza war, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, and the worrisome rightward drift in Israeli domestic politics -- also inspired the effort to create a "pro-Israel" organization that would favor smarter policies and be more representative of American Jewish opinion than hard-line groups like AIPAC, the Israel Project, or the Zionist Organization of America, to say nothing of Christian Zionist organizations like John Hagee's Christians United for Israel.
Our greatest disappointment, however, has been the lack of movement in U.S. Middle East policy. On the one hand, Barack Obama's administration has resisted the lobby's pressure for military action against Iran, and it took office proclaiming its intention to achieve a two-state solution during Obama's first term. But on the other hand, Obama and his Middle East team have been unable or unwilling to act as an evenhanded mediator.
This situation is disappointing but not surprising. U.S. foreign policy rarely turns on a dime, and a central pillar like the "special relationship" doesn't change just because two academics write a controversial article. We didn't expect groups like AIPAC to dry up and blow away just because we had cast a critical spotlight on their activities, and the mechanisms that these and other groups have used to influence Congress and the executive branch remain potent.
The result, unfortunately, is that a two-state solution that would secure Israel's long-term future is farther away than ever, and America's image in the region -- which showed signs of improvement at the time of Obama's 2009 Cairo speech -- remains parlous. And we are now witnessing a series of political upheavals in the Arab world that are likely to create governments that are far more sensitive to public sentiment than their predecessors were, even if they fall short of being perfect democracies. These new governments will pay more attention to the "Arab street," where the Palestinian issue resonates in powerful ways. This situation will raise the costs of the "special relationship" even more, which makes America's failure to achieve a two-state solution over the past 20 years -- a failure for which the lobby bears considerable (though not all) responsibility -- especially tragic.
Finally, I am sometimes asked whether I have any regrets about writing the article or the book. My answer is clear: absolutely not. As I told a Harvard official back in 2006, it was a "life-altering" event in the sense that it almost certainly closed some doors that might otherwise have been open to me. But writing the book and engaging in serious public debate about Israeli policy, the "special relationship," and the lobby also taught me a lot about politics and introduced me to a new community of scholars, policy analysts, and journalists from whom I've learned an enormous amount and who have become valued colleagues. I would do it again without hesitation, and I would not alter any of our central arguments.