Why Does the American Enterprise Institute Give $384,000 to an Israeli ‘Scholar’?

Two nights ago on CNN, Wolf Blitzer interviewed Dore Gold in Jerusalem and identified him as Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.N. The polished Gold offered, as usual, an articulate statement of Israeli attitudes toward the war effort. “Well for most Israelis who see this—” he began.

Gold lives in Jerusalem but interestingly, he is also a “scholar” at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, paid a whopping $96,000 a year for his services.

The curious thing is that you would never learn this on the AEI website, or from Gold’s bio at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of which he is president. The relationship is unspoken. I only know about it because AEI files 990 reports as a nonprofit that are collected by Guidestar.org. In these federal filings, AEI lists its highest-paid contractors; while almost all the others have been Americans, Dore Gold shows up every year from 2001-2004 (the last year filed), getting $96,000 a year as a scholar in Jerusalem.

The question here is why aren’t AEI and Gold up-front about the relationship, why don’t they brag about the association? $96,000 a year is a lot of money—far more than the average professor receives—yet AEI doesn’t publicly list Gold as a scholar, and Gold doesn’t list his status publicly. Indeed, Gold has published two books during his interval as an AEI scholar, Hatred’s Kingdom, an attack on Saudi Arabia, and Tower of Babble, an attack on the U.N., and in neither book does he acknowledge AEI’s support. Let me say it again: $384,000 is a lot of money for a writer—if someone gave me a fraction of that much when I was writing a book, their name would be all over the product. Nope, mum’s the word. And though AEI lists other contracted scholars on its website, like John Makin and Roger Bate, it says not a word about Gold, except when he appears at an occasional event, and then nothing about his being a “scholar” with AEI.

It’s like they’re trying to hide something. I asked Gold about this at an AEI event a year ago and he brushed me off, saying there was nothing under-wraps about it, and he’d henceforth identify the AEI connection in his writings. My searches indicate this was an idle statement on his part, he hasn’t done so.

My guess is AEI is justifiably defensive about its largesse to a rightwing Israeli pol and former high government official—who’s not much of a “scholar”—because it raises a troublesome issue: the failure to make any distinction between American interests and Israeli interests, at a thinktank purportedly devoted to American concerns. As Walt and Mearsheimer wrote in their paper on the Israel lobby, “Over the past 25 years, pro-Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy [etc.] These think tanks employ few, if any, critics of US support for Israel.”

Anyone got a better theory?