Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Makovsky, David

  • Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Fellow

  • Johns Hopkins SAIS: Lecturer

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David Makovsky is the Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)—a spin-off of the better known American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—where he directs the Project on the Middle East Peace Process.[1]

A former award-winning journalist, Makovsky is a past editor of the conservative Jerusalem Post and has worked for the Israeldaily Haaretz as well as U.S.News and World Report. Makovsky is also a lecturer at JohnsHopkinsUniversity's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), which has been home to a number of neoconservative figures, including Eliot Cohen, Paul Wolfowitz, and Gary Schmitt. Makovsky’s brother, Michael Makovsky, is the CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, where he has been a leading proponent of hawkish U.S.policies on Iran.

A frequent lecturer on college campuses, Makovsky has charted a relatively moderate course on Israel-Palestine, his primary charge at WINEP. Although he has been critical of Palestinian leaders in the past, Makovsky supports a two-state solution and has cautioned against activities that could threaten it, including Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories. Early into President Barack Obama's second term, Makovsky and WINEP colleague David Pollock suggested a modest course for U.S. diplomacy, including encouraging leaders on each side of the conflict to reiterate moderate statements—for example, pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reiterate his support for a Palestinian state, and prodding Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to relinquish Palestinian claims to Israel proper. "Perhaps these suggestions seem simple," they wrote, "but words really do matter."[2]

On Iran, however, Makovsky has taken a harder line. Long skeptical of the West's incremental approach to diplomacy with Iranover Tehran's nuclear enrichment activities, Makovsky has advocated setting a deadline for Iranto reach an agreement with Washington. "It would be useful if Obama would repeat often his earlier statements that the U.S.window for diplomacy is closing," Makovsky wrote in a 2012 issue brief with Patrick Clawson. "He can say what has been said by his advisors: at a certain point in late 2013, the United States will no longer be able to vouch that Irandoes not have a nuclear weapon. In short, the U.S.timetable is finite and not open-ended." Making clear that contingencies should include a U.S.or Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, they added, "In such a discussion, Washingtonshould clarify that it is not afraid of talks failing."[3]

Makovsky reiterated these views in a May 2013 Washington Post op-ed co-written with WINEP's Dennis Ross, a former adviser to the Obama administration whose close ties to Israelhave prompted criticism. Arguing that the United States should proffer Iranan ultimatum, they wrote that "the United Statesneeds to establish greater clarity about what we can and cannot live with regarding Iran’s nuclear program and give further credence to the administration’s statements that the time for diplomacy is running out." The Obama administration, they said, should offer the Iranians "the opportunity to have civil nuclear capability" in exchange for strict caps on enrichment and a robust enforcement regime. If the Iranians refuse, Makovsky and Ross wrote, "their real aims of acquiring nuclear weapons would be revealed. In such circumstances, the United Stateswould be far better positioned to make the case to the international community that military action is warranted."[4]

"These ideas," wrote Ali Gharib for the Daily Beast, "suffer most from their own premises and assumptions"—namely that most Iranexperts agree that U.S.military action be unlikely to erase Iran's alleged nuclear capability, and more likely harden the resolve of Iran's leaders to develop nuclear weapons. The result, wrote Gharib, "would be either perpetual war—'mowing the lawn,' as the Israeli euphemism has it—or invading and occupying Iran." Opining that the two authors were offering a threat of war cloaked in reasonable-sounding language, Gharib concluded: "Ross and Makovsky proffer a deadline exactly as the missing ingredient to striking a deal. When it does not get made, we will be at war."[5]

Makovsky is the author of several works on Middle Eastaffairs, including the Making Peace with the PLO: The Rabin Government's Road to the Oslo Accord (HarperCollins, 1996). More recently, he coauthored with Dennis Ross the 2009 book Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction in the Middle East (Viking/Penguin). In a review of the book for Foreign Affairs, L. Carl Brown writes that Ross and Makovsky provide a “Goldilocks” approach to the “myth” that all Mideast problems are linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that “the neoconservative's approach is too hot, the realist school’s is too cold, and theirs is just right.” Writes Brown, “Even while dissociating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from other problems, the authors demonstrate linkages galore and stress the importance of resolving it. Surely, the old adage that in the Middle Easteverything is linked to everything else offers a better road map than denying any linkage between Israeland other issues.”[6]

According to his WINEP bio, Makovsky is “the author or coauthor of a variety of Washington Institute monographs on issues related to the Middle East Peace Process and the Arab-Israeli conflict, including these titles: Lessons and Implications of the Israel-Hizballah War: A Preliminary Assessment (2006); Olmert's Unilateral Option: An Early Assessment (2006); Hamas Triumphant (2006); Engagement Through Disengagement: Gaza and the Potential for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking (2005); A Defensible Fence: Fighting Terror and Enabling a Two State Solution (2004), which focuses on Israel's security barrier and its relationship to demography and geography in the West Bank."[7]

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[1] WINEP, “David Makovsky,” http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/experts/view/makovsky-david

[2] David Makovsky and David Pollock, "Obama, Israelis, and Palestinians: More Words, Less Action," The Atlantic, January 11, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/obama-israelis-and-palestinians-more-words-less-action/267061/.

[3] Patrick Clawson and David Makovsky, "Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout: U.S.-Israeli Coordination," WINEP, Strategic Report 8, September 2012, p. 13, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/StrategicReport8.pdf.

[4] Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, "Iran’s nuclear games demand a tougher U.S.approach," May 27, 2013, Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/irans-nuclear-games-demand-for-a-tougher-us-approach/2013/05/27/36464e7e-c6e3-11e2-9245-773c0123c027_story.html.

[5] Ali Gharib, "How Not To Negotiate With Iran," Daily Beast, May 29, 2013, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/29/how-not-to-negotiate-with-iran.html.

[6] L. Carl Brown, “Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2009, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65383/dennis-ross-and-david-makovsky/myths-illusions-and-peace-finding-a-new-direction-for-america-in.

[7] WINEP, “David Makovsky,” http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/experts/view/makovsky-david.

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Makovsky, David Résumé


  • Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Fellow

  • Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies: Lecturer

  • Council on Foreign Relations: Member

  • International Institute for Strategic Studies: Member


  • Jerusalem Post: Former Executive Editor

  • Haaretz: Former Diplomatic Correspondent

  • U.S. News and World Report: Former Contributing Editor 


  • Columbia University: BA

  • Harvard University: MA in Middle East studies 


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