The Belfer Declaration

For his Connecticut insurgency, Joe Lieberman amassed $13.8 million as of 9/30 (per the FEC). Ned Lamont was gasping away at about $9 million. Big stakes. One of Lieberman’s more generous enablers is Robert Belfer, energy executive, who lives in New York. He and his wife Renee look to have given about 8 large to the diminutive power-mad son of a liquor-store-owner.

I wish I could take credit for my clever headline. I can’t, the highly-influential New York Sun came up with it, last spring, a week after the Walt-Mearsheimer paper on the Israel lobby was printed by the London Review of Books. The Sun was calling Belfer out, because he’s a big philanthropist to Jewish causes and also funds the Belfer center at Harvard’s Kennedy School; Stephen M. Walt, one of the authors of the Israel lobby paper, holds the Robert and Renee Belfer chair in international relations there.

The Sun reported that Belfer was not pleased by Walt’s scholarship, and had made a call about it. At the time I believe Belfer had no public comment. But the Sun and others were pressing Belfer to renounce Walt, take back his money, make Walt sit on a cold metal folding chair instead of a Belfer, etc. There was also talk that Walt was being asked not to use Belfer’s name in public statements on the Israel lobby. Indeed, when Walt and Mearsheimer’s National Press Club event was organized by the Islamic group CAIR in late August, CAIR’s press release identified them simply as professors.

Big deal. Walt still holds the Belfer chair at Harvard. It does not appear that Robert Belfer has forced him to revoke anything, or has taken his money back. I imagine there’s been a lot of pressure on Steve Walt, professional and social, at Harvard, and I hope we will read that story one day in his and Mearsheimer’s book for FSG. But Belfer, too, has been pressured; and I’m going to take things at face value and say, People have behaved in a sophisticated and mature way here, even members of the Loose Coalition of Affinity for Israel (formerly known as the Israel lobby). Props to Robert Belfer.