The American professors whose bestselling book, The Israel Lobby, provoked a media storm are bracing themselves for a hostile reception when they speak this week at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv.
Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer faced a barrage of criticism for their work, released last September as an expansion of an article published by the London Review of Books in 2006. They argue that the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US has enormous influence on US foreign policy - operating, they say, against the American national interest and also the interests of Israel. While some describe the claims as a welcome contribution to debate on America's relationship with Israel, others denounce them as the work of Jewish conspiracy theorists.
"Their decision to come here means they are looking for a good fight," said Akiva Eldar, columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. "Most Israelis who have heard of the professors believe that they are antisemites, anti-Israeli, biased and wrong." But the authors hold that, unlike the US, Israel is willing to engage in a discussion on the subject.