It can’t be repeated too often: the American Jewish community is not responsible for the popularity of hard line views among American non-Jews on Middle East issues. Individual Jews and predominantly Jewish organizations like AIPAC derive their influence over American foreign policy not from their Jewishness, but from the affinity of their policy agenda with the views and priorities of America’s non-Jews. When American Jews say things about the Middle East that resonate with the views of American non-Jews, they are influential. When, as in the case of the persistent agitation to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, Jewish conservative supporters of Israel deviate from the gentile consensus, that influence suddenly disappears. When, like the many liberal Jewish journalists and pundits who think hard line policies in the Middle East are bad for both Israel and the United States, they say things that American non-Jews don’t like their views and their insights are largely cast aside. In none of these cases is the Jewish identity of the writers the key to the reception accorded their ideas.
In general, I think this is right. Mead doesn't mention one important factor in this - the evangelical end-times view of Israel. It's the politics of the Book of Revelation that impels Sarah Palin to take the view of the right-wing Jewish settlers and terrorists in the West Bank (Yes, I take setting fire to mosques, poisoning fig trees, destroying Palestinian agriculture as terrorism). The pro-Israel lobby is successful not just because it pursues legitimate lobbying of Congress to defend almost anything Israel does, but because it also has a sturdy outreach program to non-Jewish Americans who, by and large, identify far more with Western-seeming Israelis than with Arabs and Muslims, an identification understandably intensified after 9/11.
But there comes a point - and this is what many pro-Israel critics of Israeli policy like yours truly have been saying - when this generalized support can blind us to real issues that hurt us and hurt Israel. The Gaza campaign did not command massive American public support - the public was deeply divided but the Congress was unanimously on Israel's side (that's AIPAC's influence in a nutshell).