The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is a right-wing, "pro-Israel" advocacy and research institution that promotes "strategic cooperation" between the United States and Israel on everything from the promotion of missile defense and mutual security strategies to terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and "rogue" nations. It has claimed to be "the most influential group on the issue of U.S.-Israel military relations."
JINSA was founded in the mid-1970s to serve as a study group aimed at "learning the lessons" of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, including how to ensure that the United States backs Israel in the event of future conflicts. In the late 1970s, the group evolved into a "defense education group" closely connected to military-industrial elites. Today, the group operates as a 501(c)(3) organization that receives most of its funding through private donations, including from what it claims are 17,000 paid members.
According to JINSA's website, the group's mission is "to advocate on behalf of a strong U.S. military, a robust national security policy, and a strong U.S. security relationship with Israel and other like-minded democracies."JINSA aspires to "engage the American defense community about the role Israel can and does play in securing Western democratic interests in the Middle East" and to "improve awareness in the general public, as well as in the Jewish community of the importance of a strong American defense capability."
One observer has compared JINSA to the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a Cold War-era letterhead group that in the 1970s championed rolling back détente and implementing a confrontational anti-Soviet agenda. Wrote journalist Jason Vest: "Just as the right-wing defense intellectuals made CPD a cornerstone of a shadow defense establishment during the Carter administration, so, too, did the right during the Clinton years, in part through two organizations: the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP). … Industrious and persistent, they've managed to weave a number of issues—support for national missile defense, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey, and American unilateralism in general—into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core."
Observers regard JINSA as a core element of the so-called Israel Lobby in the United States. In their controversial 2006 paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," realist scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer highlighted JINSA as one of several influential policy institutes that constitute the "think tank" arm of the "Israel Lobby." They wrote: "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, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). These think tanks are decidedly pro-Israel, and include few, if any, critics of U.S. support for the Jewish state."
In April 2013, JINSA hired Michael Makovsky as its CEO. Makovsky was previously the foreign policy program director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, an ostensibly centrist organization whose foreign policy work—especially on Iran—tacked to the hawkish right under Makovsky's stewardship.
JINSA'S president is David Ganz. Michael Nachmann serves as its chairman, and Morris Amitay serves as vice-chairman. JINSA's previous president was the late Norman Hascoe, a financier and former engineer who was once included on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. Its past chairman was the late Mark Broxmeyer, a New York-based real estate mogul.
In January 2012, the Jewish daily Forward reported an upheaval among JINSA's leadership. The report claimed that the firing of former executive director Shoshana Bryen, a longstanding member of rightwing "pro-Israel" factions, helped prompt "several conservative icons to quit the group's advisory board in protest," including James Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, and Richard Perle. Although there was no hint of ideological disputes within the group's top ranks, the paper suggested that JINSA was struggling to maintain its unique position within a crowded beltway neoconservative establishment. "The recent crisis," it added, "is a result of a messy transformation of power in the group's top ranks and a struggle to maintain relevance and funding at a time of shrinking budgets and growing competition from other Jewish causes."
As of 2013, JINSA's board of advisers was led by co-chairs David Steinmann, former head of the right-wing William Rosenwald Family Fund, and David Justman. The board includes a passel of hawkish and neoconservative foreign policy elites as well as a number of retired military officers, including Anne Bayefsky, retired Adm. David Jeremiah, former ambassador John Bolton, and leading neoconservative writer Joshua Muravchik. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was also a member. In addition to Woolsey, Perle, and Ledeen, past advisers have included Dick Cheney, Douglas Feith, Kenneth Timmerman, Shoshana Bryen's husband Stephen, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Max Kampelman, and Jack Kemp.
JINSA's core activities include "sponsoring a trip for retired United States Flag and General Officers to Israel and a study program in Israel for cadets and midshipmen from the Naval Academy, the Military Academy at West Point, and the Air Force Academy. JINSA also arranges interchanges between Pentagon officials and Jewish community leadership and sponsors lectures and conferences at the national military academies and leading national security think tanks. These programs are aimed at facilitating dialogue between security policy makers, military officials, diplomats, and the community at large to increase the understanding of national security issues."
JINSA also regularly publishes opinion and reporting pieces on its website. An April 2013 piece by visiting JINSA fellow Peter Huessy claimed that impending cuts to the U.S. military budget would hamstring what he characterized as "diplomatic" efforts, including protecting sea lanes and warding off cyberattacks. "A smaller U.S. military—weaker and less ready—risks being incapable of defending America's interests in a future crisis that is sure to emerge," he concluded. "A strong military, far from being an alternative to sound diplomacy, compliments [sic] such statecraft." Despite Huessy's alarmism about the "sequester" cuts brought on by Congress' failure to reach a budget deal, defense budget expert Miriam Pemberton pointed out that "sequestration will not 'gut' our military. Sequestration will take our military budget back to the level it was in 2007, when we were still fighting two wars."
JINSA also publishes talking points on issues related to U.S. domestic politics and the Middle East. A March 2013 report, published in advance of President Barack Obama's trip to Israel and the West Bank that month, urged the president "to make it clear to both our allies and adversaries that American policy is to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons capability and not to depend on containing it if it does," among other demands. This has been a longstanding demand of Israel's right-wing government and its backers in the United States, which have drawn a "red line" for military action against Iran at the nebulous standard of so-called "nuclear weapons capability." The Obama administration has generally said it favors reserving military as a potential response in the event that Iran begins actively developing nuclear weapon, which U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have generally agreed Iran is not currently pursuing.
In addition to these regularly published pieces, JINSA has maintained a number of publications over the years, including the Journal of International Security Affairs, a biannual academic-style journal edited by Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) and a "contributing expert" for the Israel-based Ariel Center for Policy Research. Other publications have included the Observer, "a quarterly review of U.S.-Turkey-Israel cooperation" copublished by JINSA and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, and the Islamic Extremism Newswatch, a rundown of media stories covering the activities of everyone from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to al-Qaeda.
Each year, JINSA awards its favorite policy or military elite the Henry "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award. The award honors "those leaders whose careers have been distinguished by the principle that is the foundation of JINSA's work: the belief that the United States requires a strong military capability for both its own security and for that of trustworthy friends and allies. This was the cornerstone of the late Senator Jackson's visionary policy and it guides JINSA today. Senator Jackson helped define our mandate and our programming is designed to further it." Among the recipients have been Sen. Lindsey Graham (2012), former Sen. Jon Kyl (2010), Sen. John McCain (2006), Paul Wolfowitz (2002), former Rep. Curt Weldon (1999), former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (1997), Dick Cheney (1991), and Jeane Kirkpatrick (1984).
While traditional lobbying groups like the highly influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee focus on influencing congressional figures' votes on legislation critical to U.S. support of Israel, JINSA works on developing military-to-military ties between the countries and pays special attention to weapons issues—especially missile defense—while maintaining close ties to the military-industrial complex.
According to journalist Mark Milstein, the broad contours of JINSA's work were originally crafted by Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the husband and wife team Stephen and Shoshana Bryen. In 1979, Stephen Bryen replaced Ledeen as JINSA's executive director, after Ledeen and other early directors had successfully worked to distance the organization "from the rest of the pro-Israel establishment, and methodically [create] close ties with the U.S. defense community." Ledeen later was implicated by some Reagan officials for having helped facilitate what would become the Iran-Contra scandal. According to Milstein, under Bryen, JINSA became "fully operational, finally shedding its study group title in December 1979." When Bryen left JINSA to take a post in the Reagan administration, where he helped shape a hawkish pro-Israel line within the administration, he handed the reigns of the organization over to his wife in 1981.
Wrote Milstein: "Bryen became a consultant for Richard N. Perle, the Reagan administration assistant secretary of defense-designate. After Perle was confirmed by the Senate, Bryen was named deputy assistant secretary of defense in charge of regulating the transfer of U.S. military technology to foreign countries. Critics at the time cited the placement of Bryen in one of the most sensitive positions at the Pentagon as evidence of the tilt in U.S. policy toward Israel under Reagan. 'They don't say no anymore to Israel at the Pentagon,' said a former high-ranking Defense Department official. 'Israel is the 51st state.' It was during the Reagan era that U.S. economic aid to Israel rose to $1.2 billion annually, and military aid to $1.8 billion annually. Bryen had a role in choosing not only what U.S. weaponry Israel would be allowed to purchase with those funds, but also what sensitive U.S. military technology would be made available to Israel for use in its own burgeoning arms industry."
Many individuals with defense industry backgrounds and affiliations have served on JINSA's board of advisers and have been involved in numerous contracts with Israel. Leon Edney, David Jeremiah, and Charles May, all retired U.S. military officers, have been consultants to Northrop Grumman, which has built Israeli ships and planes. JINSA advisers May, Paul Cerjan, and Carlisle Trost have also worked for Lockheed Martin, which has sold F-16s, flight simulators, and rocket systems to Israel. Trost has served as a member of the board of General Dynamics, whose subsidiary Gulfstream has a $206 million contract with the Pentagon.
Immediately after 9/11, JINSA joined other neoconservative-aligned groups like the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in calling for an expansive U.S. military response that would not be limited to attacking al-Qaeda. In a September 13, 2001 press release entitled "This Goes Beyond Bin Laden," JINSA joined a chorus of foreign policy hawks in and out of the Bush administration, like former Pentagon number two Paul Wolfowitz, in arguing that Iraq should be a target of the war. It argued: "A long investigation to prove Osama bin Laden's guilt with prosecutorial certainty is entirely unnecessary. He is guilty in word and deed. His history is the source of his culpability. The same holds true for Saddam Hussein. Our actions in the past certainly were not forceful enough, and now we must seize the opportunity to alter this pattern of passivity." Among its recommended list of actions for the U.S. government were: "Halt all U.S. purchases of Iraqi oil under the UN Oil for Food Program and ... provide all necessary support to the Iraq National Congress, including direct American military support, to effect a regime change in Iraq"; "revoke the Presidential Order banning assassinations"; "overturn the 1995 CIA Directive limiting whom the United States can recruit to aid counterterrorism in an effort to boost our human intelligence"; "demand that Egypt and Saudi Arabia sever all remaining ties with Osama bin Laden, including ties with Saudi-sponsored nongovernmental organizations and groups abroad that raise money for bin Laden and other terrorist organizations"; "suspend U.S. military aid to Egypt while reevaluating Egypt's support for American policy objectives"; and "reevaluate America's security relationship with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States unless both actually join in our war against terrorism."
JINSA has appeared to struggle to maintain its funding levels. According to its Form 990 filings, the group reported around $3.3 million in revenues in 2011, down from $3.8 in 2008. Between 2001 and 2004, JINSA received nearly $8 million in gifts, grants, and contributions.
Thomas Neumann, JINSA's executive director, once boasted: "We receive 99.9, no, 100% of our funding from private donations." He added, "We receive no money from Israel or any defense contractors." At the time of his comments (1991), donors included Ronald Lauder (of Estee Lauder cosmetics), DC lobbyist Donald Agger, Atlantic Research Corporation (a defense contractor), the Smith-Kogod family, the Air Force Association, the Armed Services Foundation, and Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces.
According to data collected by MediaTransparency. org, between 1998 and 2005, JINSA received nearly $200,000 from several major rightist donors, including the Smith Richardson Foundation, which gave a $100,000 grant to JINSA in 2003 aimed at facilitating exchanges between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement officials involved in combating terrorism threats. Another regular JINSA donor is Irving Moskowitz, a California magnate whose controversial donating activities include aiding right-wing settler groups in the Occupied Territories. According to the 2005 Form 990 of the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation, the bingo magnate donated $20,000 to JINSA in 2005 for "work against Islamic funded terrorism." Former JINSA president Norman Hascoe was also a substantial donor, having given hundreds of thousands to JINSA through his Hascoe Family Foundation, which remains active today.