The two US scholars, who stirred controversy several months ago after claiming that US foreign policy is skewed in favor of Israel due to the work of the pro-Israeli lobby, are now accusing the lobby of leading the administration, Congress and public opinion to support Israel's actions in Lebanon against America's best interests. Profs. Stephan Walt and John Mearsheimer also claim that Israel had planned the war in Lebanon in advanced and used the kidnapping of its soldiers as a pretext to launch the operation. At an event here sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Mearsheimer, of the University of Chicago, said the "Bush administration policy in Lebanon was not in the best interest of the US" and that Israel did not benefit either from the "green light" it got from the US to continue the operation. He further claimed that by backing Israel, the US has weakened its position in dealing with other regional challenges - terror, Iraq and Iran. The original paper, published in the London Review of Books in March, opened a debate in the US over the role the pro-Israeli activists play in shaping the US foreign policy. The two scholars claimed that by putting pressure on lawmakers and by the work of pro-Israel individuals in the administration, academia and the media, the Israeli lobby managed to shift US foreign policy toward supporting Israel unconditionally in a way that contradicts American interests. Walt and Mearsheimer were attacked by Jewish and non-Jewish activists, some blaming them of being anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic and others arguing the paper was sloppy and full of factual errors. In their public appearance in Washington Monday, a rare event in itself, the two found a supportive crowd and were even awarded by one of the activists with a pin carrying the slogan: "Fighting the Israel lobby." Walt, of the Kennedy School at Harvard University, stressed that he is not blaming all Jews in high positions in the US of being "some kind of secret cabal" and said he does not claim the activities of Jewish Americans in favor of Israel are disloyal or inappropriate. Yet when talking about the people who influenced the administration to launch the Iraq war, the two scholars mentioned Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Elliott Abrams and David Wurmser, all Jewish officials in the administration. Later they added John Bolton, who is not Jewish, to the list. Mearsheimer claimed Israel had planned the Lebanon war in advance and that it used the Hizbullah attack as a pretext to launch its war plan. He went on to say that Israel informed the US of its plans months before the war broke out. "It now seems clear that Israel has been planning to strike at Hizbullah for months before the July 12 kidnappings and that key Israelis had briefed the administration about their intentions," Mearsheimer said, "The available evidence indicates that the Bush administration enthusiastically endorsed Israel's plans for war in Lebanon." David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, called Mearsheimer's claim an "outrageous argument," adding that "the only reason for the Lebanon war was the Hizbullah's attack on Israel." The two scholars also contended that the Israeli lobby is responsible for muting any kind of criticism on Israel's actions during the war. Mearsheimer said President George W. Bush stopped calling on Israel to refrain from undermining the Lebanese government following pressure from the pro-Israel lobby. He also ridiculed the actions of the Israel lobby in the case of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who called for an immediate cease-fire and then retracted his criticism against Israel after coming under pressure of Jewish groups.