The cases of Jimmy Carter and Wesley Clark's run-ins with the Zionist lobby display that whether you're a former President with unquestioned humanitarian credentials and a Nobel under your belt, or a four-star general proven to be as ruthless as any American hero, you can't just say what you want in the US. Carter's book and Clark's statement about "the New York money people" weren't necessarily important in their criticism in Israel--indeed, both attempted to go out of their ways not to criticize Israel. Carter claimed that Israel is "a wonderful democracy" when, in fact, that is not so clear-cut, as I have also pointed out and Clark went out of his way to say that "the Jewish community is divided" which it is.
If the crimes of Carter and Clark were not simply in their ire towards the actions of the Israeli state, why have they invited such sustained indignation from the lobby and the American punditry/academic community whose function is ostensibly to be pro-Israel?
It is not that they criticized Israel, which they attempted not to do; their crime is, in fact, that they criticized the lack of debate about Israel policy within the United States.
Ever so briefly, these two men lifted the Wizard's curtain and pointed to the fact that there is something ominous about the narrowing of acceptable dialogue in a purportedly democratic country, that something was not right about the fact that special interests not only dominate government, but that they dominate the public sphere so completely as well. Until now, the machinations of AIPAC and the corporate/elite origins of its funding had not been commented on in polite company. That these men highlighted that fact is the primary reason for the viciousness of the responses they have received from the likes of Alan Dershowitz.
Cracking the ice on the topic of the Israeli occupation is useful; if it weren't, I wouldn't expect Dershowitz to enter the fray with his tiresome brand of charlatanism. Public debate could lead to a genuine reassessment of American policy there, though it is unlikely that the current model of representative government would change its policy, which includes the shipment of armaments and fighter jets to a state as it is conducting air raids on a neighbor, attack helicopters while it is conducting campaigns against an occupied population, and sanctions against that occupied population when they vote for someone Israel (and by extension the US) can't co-opt as easily as their predecessors, followed by shipments of arms to the aforementioned rival faction within the occupied population to exacerbate tensions which have precipitated in the deaths of twenty individuals over the past week. If a country other than the United States were following such a policy, it would rightly be denounced as criminal in the United Nations, and appropriate action would be taken. The veto powers have precluded that from ever happening (though even a majority of the American public is willing to give up a Security Council veto, interestingly).
While government policy towards Israel would likely not change, popular action could take place in the forms of boycotts and pressure for divestment (and other political and economic pressure), which are all currently being discussed and promoted by numerous activists. Citizens' pressure could have an effect in an age when government has no interest in true stability or justice, as foreign policy has been corporatized.
In the absence of democratic foreign policy (since its inception), the United States has long been (since, let's say, 1945) the world's leading state sponsor of terror.
Foreign policy, be it with regard to an aggressive ally or the indirect violence of neoliberal globalization, is not remotely a matter that can be effected by elections. Not only is this the case in the United States. Take the evidence of Brazil, where a coalition of grassroots movements elected a formerly poor union organizer only to have him abandon their aims. The state is not only unwilling to be accountable to its citizens when it comes to international relations--it won't even hear of alternatives. Apparently, there is no alternative.
How long has it been that way? Have you noticed it?
What is to be done?
At the risk of sounding repetitive, the crisis of democracy in the West, as underlined by the shift towards anti-democratic, authoritarian, unaccountable foreign policies, is systemic and can only be solved by grassroots action. The state, corporate, academic, and trade union structures that have become glorified orchestrations of democracy over a foundation of (sometimes) subtle tyranny can be circumvented by the organization and action of citizens, in a truly deliberative, ground-up democratic fashion. On issues economic, environmental (often in response to 'development'), political and humanitarian, even with regard to Israel, people are attempting to do just this. It isn't easy, and there are innumerable pitfalls. But a democratic future requires concerted democratic action in the present.
"Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?"