The Chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz
Dershowitz is an honourable man. He argues that “The U.N. shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the Israel-Palestine conflict”, but he himself, who is not an Israeli citizen, does exactly the same *** Neither he nor anyone of his family will pay the toll if his advices will lead Israel into a never-ending bloodbath *** The road to the good intentions is paved with hell *** Mr. Dershowitz, keep your hands off my country!
I am an Israeli, politically unidentified.
As to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I’ve always said that I will accept any solution that will be accepted by both 51% of my compatriots and 51% of the Palestinians – no matter what my own wish is (and, frankly speaking, nobody cares about it). I said it long before Donald Trump became the U.S. president, and said it in his capacity as such.
Why do I stress this issue? I do that because in Israel whenever you say the word “peace” – let alone speaking about getting along with the Arab world – you are labeled as “leftist”, and you get the derogatory “title” סמולן, instead of שמאלן, which is the correct Hebrew spelling.
Another disadvantage of being politically labeled is losing the writer’s credibility: “He says this-and-that because he is right/left winger”… I have written thousands of articles, many of them on purely political subjects, yet, nobody knows about my political orientation more than I disclose (see above) – that’s my asset.
Now to the issue.
A. Barack Obama deserves justice, too!
The issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rose again following President Barack Obama’s decision not to veto the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank (see below).
Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, an “esteemed legal scholar”, who “works tirelessly to defend Israel on the world stage, even though he has no obligation to do so“, slammed former U.S. President Barack Obama for “stabbing Israel in the back”, and said that history will see him as “one of the worst foreign policy presidents ever” – thus on “Fox & Friends“.
Yet, to the Israeli audience he says other things – more cautious in substance, less restrained in language: “I think Obama will be tossed into the dustbin of history when it comes to the Middle East” (interview with Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom, December 30, 2016).
That’s the point: not “worst foreign policy“, in general (for the American audience), but just “when it comes to the Middle East” (for the Israeli audience).
To have an idea of the journalistic value of the interview with Dershowitz on Obama, we should be aware that Israel Hayom (literally: Israel Today) is owned by the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, an avowed and enthusiastic supporter of both Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, and that the interviewer, Boaz Bismuth, published, a few days earlier, an article titled “Obama, we will not miss you“, in which he said (translated from Hebrew):
One can say with certainty that Obama asked through this move to hurt us legally and mainly stab a knife in our back just before he arrived with the suitcases at the door. … Thank you, Mister Obama, but even more thank you, President-designate Trump. Obama took – Trump will give back. Now tell me who is more relevant today?
Had Obama and his administration really been “hostile toward Israel”, as Dershowitz says?
In the Hebrew “translation” of this interview, translated by me back into English, Dershowitz says:
“One must admit that Obama supported Israel militarily”.
However, in the original interview, au contraire, Dershowitz says:
“To give the devil his due, the Obama administration was very supportive of Israel militarily”.
This is Alan Dershowitz, whom so many in Israel admire, and this is his “appreciation” of the military support that Obama gave Israel – more than he gave to any other country, and more than any other American president has ever given Israel before him: $38Bn in military support for the next ten years (compared to $34.4Bn, the last ten years, starting with George W. Bush, Trump’s Republican predecessor in the White House).
Yet, Dershowitz says it was just “to give the devil his due”, so let it be, and Dershowitz is an honourable man.
How much would Mr. Trump give to Israel, if he were in Obama’s shoes (or had he started the support deal with Israel de-novo, after taking office)?
We don’t know, but undoubtedly much less, since he vowed to add more to the U.S. military, while cutting significantly in foreign aid, including programs that military officials say do contribute to global stability and are seen as important in helping avoid future conflicts.
Moreover, Trump promised “to run the country like running a business”, and in business, like in business – the beneficiary must give a proper return for every dollar.
What kind of “return” can poor Israel give businessman Donald Trump? Not much. Not even the help that the mouse gave the lion in Aesop’s The Lion and the Mouse.
And what can Trump give Israel?
Frankly speaking, I know not.
In fact, I can guess (just guess!): Instead of adding more military support to Israel Trump can make symbolic gestures to Israel: heart-warming statements that have nothing behind them – like those we saw in his election campaign, prior to his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in February, this year, or in his visit to Israel, later in May (kissing the stones of the Western Wall, aka Wailing Wall, is always welcome).
In his election campaign Trump solemnly promised to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but after two weeks in office he invited Netanyahu, and manipulated him to “agree” that it is “not so simple”… and, on June 1, upon the expiration of the postponement order signed by President Obama (following all the other American presidents since 1995), he, Trump, signed another waiver overriding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates the embassy’s relocation to the Israeli capital – another postponement, a quite-sure indication that he will end his presidency, in time or earlier, without keeping his solemn promise.
In short, until now Donald Trump has become an Israeli hero, without giving the Israelis anything but words-words-words.
Yes, yes … subsequent to his visit to Israel and to the massive US-Saudi arms deal, Trump gave Israel 75 million dollars as an “aid package” for the missile defense program of Israel, without even saying over what timeframe this money would be disbursed – just a “pocket money” compared with the above-mentioned $38 billion that President Obama gave Israel just before he left the White House.
Trump can give Israel also political support in the U.N. institutions, as long as the American benevolent is politically satisfied with the “return”.
For an avowed businessman like Trump heart-warming statements are much-much less expensive than pouring money to a foreign army, contrary to his declarations to use the money for the “dwindled” U.S. military.
Would such gestures please the Israelis?
Yes, they would. They would please them as long their leaders can use them for their domestic political needs, and as long they are not pushed to the corner, having to give a proper “return” for the U.S. dollars.
Would such gestures please you, Mr. Dershowitz, or would you say that they are but “sheer symbolic gestures”, whose maker is “unaware of the real security needs of Israel”, just to “give the devil his due”?
Frankly speaking, I know not.
Back to reality, under the (reasonable, but definitely not guaranteed) assumption that Trump would not cut the military support granted to Israel by Obama – $3.8Bn per year, for ten years ahead: would Dershowitz have said that Trump also did it just “to give the devil his due”?
Now suppose Trump changes his mind and wants to show that even in military support he is better for Israel than Obama – raising it to $4Bn per year won’t be enough – it will be a mockery of the job. In order to give significantly more than Obama did, he will have to give at least 4.5 or 5 billion dollars per year, like to a spoiled child whose parents compete with each other about who will give him more candies.
Had it happened, the State of Israel would have to thank the former American president, the denounced-by-Dershowitz Barak Obama, for starting this “armament race”, not blame him for just “giving the devil his due”.
Anyway, in his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu didn’t even dare to ask for “more of the same”, because he had other things in mind (settlements, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Iran etc.), and he knew that Trump will not add another worn-out dollar to what Obama gave him (and the people of Israel should thank Bibi for rejecting his advisors’ recommendation to stop negotiating with Obama’s administration over this issue, and wait for the elections and for the new administration – maybe it will be more generous in opening its checkbook to Israel).
All the above is but an introduction to the issue that made Mr. Dershowitz so “outraged over the U.S. abstention on an anti-Israel U.N. resolution“.
As I said in my forward, I don’t favor any specific Mid-East solution except the one that will be accepted by the popular majorities of the two peoples. I have always said that, I said it long before Trump said it as the U.S. president. For an American president it sounds – and is – obvious, but for the Israelis it is far from being within the national consensus.
Anyway, regardless of my own view, if I have to guess – just guess – what will eventually be the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, my guess is the two-state solution: not because I favor, or disfavor, it, but because the polls show that this solution is the closest to reach the goal of mutual popular consent.
Even Mr. Netanyahu has just recently claimed to be optimistic about the new Trump administration and hopeful that the next American president and the Arab states can help bringing about “two states for two peoples” in Israel and Palestine (inter alia: Foxnews, December 12, 2016).
So, American presidents come and go, and the Middle East is still stranded.
Starting his presidency, Mr. Obama was anxious to bring peace to the Mid-East. Every president and head of state – not only in America, but all over the world – is anxious to achieve this goal (why not?!), but, like all his predecessors, he failed, too.
As many others, and as the polls show, Obama also thought that the two-state solution is the most likely to be implemented. He didn’t compel Israel to accept his view, he didn’t stipulate the military support on Israel’s acceptance of this solution – he just offered his help to facilitate it. Yet, he got from Israel nothing but a cold shoulder.
We must remember that Obama did not give Israel only military support, but also political support – including vetoing all the anti-Israeli Security Council resolutions – except the last one, Resolution 2334, made on December 23, 2016.
Did Obama refrain from vetoing the last Security Council’s resolution as an “act of vengeance” against Israel, or just because this act is the best thing he can do for the good of Israel?
I am not a psychologist to answer this question, neither is Mr. Dershowitz, but there are many good and loyal Israelis who see this move favorable to Israel.
I can assume another explanation for Obama’s refraining from vetoing the anti-Israeli resolution: since the leaders of both parties to the conflict understand that there is no solution seen in the foreseeable future, all their efforts are invested in maneuvering each other to the position of “peace refuser”, and “showing that the other side is to blame” for not doing enough towards achieving the goal.
In this “play” Bibi Netanyahu is the best actor in the world. How it is done I show in my docudrama play Tsipi Livni and Mahmoud Abbas Talk Peace. In short: after a tough and exhausting negotiation, when all the details are closed, the Israelis say “rega-rega (just a minute, in Hebrew, the first words you hear when you land in TLV), we want you to recognize Israel as a Jewish state”, and the negotiations end with “you see, Mr. Kerry, they even don’t want to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, they don’t want peace, they want to throw us to the sea!” …
How should an unbiased bystander look at such a “scene”? How did Obama regard it?
My assumption: “The Palestinians are stupid, they can say ‘OK, we agree, what next?’, and they unfortunately don’t, but, au contraire, they don’t have what to give, except their underpants. The Israelis, on the other hand, have what to give, but they don’t want to give”.
Just for the full picture: if Netanyahu agrees to the two-state solution, in the following elections his party, Likud, will lose many votes, to both the left (Ha’Machane Ha’Tsiyioni, Itshak Boujie Hertzog’s party) and to the right (Ha’Bayit Ha’Yehudi, Naftali Bennett’s party) – each of them will claim its own “We Told You”.
Bibi Netanyahu can’t allow himself such a scenario. He will speak over and over again in favor of the two-state solution, but do everything possible to thwart it.
Now back to Obama: what could he have done other than saying to the Israelis “OK, you are grown-up children. If you don’t want my help, it is fine with me, I’m not offended, but I’ll not join your orchestra. Go by yourselves to the Security Council, and leave me alone!”.
No, Mr. Dershowitz, it isn’t an act of “antisemitism”, but an act of despair: I did everything for them for eight years, I gave them military support no American president gave them, I vetoed any resolution against them, I’ve done all I could to mediate between them and the Palestinians, and look what they’ve done to my song!
B. Mr. Dershowitz, keep your hands off my country!
Mr. Dershowitz’s wrath rose now over Obama’s refraining from vetoing the Security Council’s Resolution 2334, which said, inter alia, that the Israeli settlement activity “constituted the single biggest threat to peace”.
The intra-Israeli dispute over the settlements and the two-state or one-state solutions is a part of the Israeli legitimate political discourse. Dershowitz argues that “The U.N. shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the Israel-Palestine conflict”, but he himself, a public figure who is not an Israeli citizen, not even an Israeli resident, does exactly the same.
It’s OK to express views about a country one isn’t a citizen of.
It’s OK, and I’m pretty sure Dershowitz’s intentions are good, but the question is what he suggests. He doesn’t offer the parties his help and learned advice, neither does he offer his good service as a mediator between them. He just toils to harden the hearts of the Israelis.
Dershowitz maintains that the U.N. shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the Israel-Palestine conflict, “because every time they do that they make peace more difficult to achieve”.
Suppose the U.N. agrees to keep its hands off this conflict … what then? What will fill the vacuum that nature does not tolerate? Will the peace come to that region within half an hour, half a year, half a century or never? Mr. Dershowitz doesn’t even think about it, nor does he suggest what the U.N. should do if instead of peace there will be a grand bloodshed. Should the U.N. stay away even then?!
As mentioned above, Dershowitz says that the U.N. shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the Israel-Palestine conflict, “because every time they do that they make peace more difficult to achieve”. Let it be, but the same can be said about his own coming close to the intra-Israeli conflict, for the same reasons, and the same can be also about Obama’s answering his expectations, had he done so: It would have hardened the hearts of the Israeli peace refusers.
Isn’t it chutspah?
Yes, it is! As long as he doesn’t make aliyyah (immigration of Jews to Israel, getting automatic citizenship) he has no moral right to push the Israelis into a possible bloodshed.
Dershowitz reminds me an old and worn-out story about a young lawyer who joined his father’s law firm, and a few days later he came to his father’s desk with a very heavy file and joyfully said: Dad, I managed to close this file with an excellent settlement for our clients! The father answered: You idiot! Our family has lived on this file for three generations!!!
Mr. Dershowitz, keep your hands off my country – it isn’t your country, and if your “advocacy” for Israel will fail, neither you nor anyone of your own family will pay the toll.
Back to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank: are they an “obstacle to peace”?
Frankly, I know not, and even if I knew, or had an opinion about this issue – I would not tell it, because, as I said above, I am politically unidentified, and as to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I will accept any solution that will be accepted by both 51% of my compatriots and 51% of the Palestinians. In other words, my own opinion is irrelevant.
Anyway, I would like to give some “food for thought” over this issue: suppose there is not even one settlement in the West Bank; suppose, on the other hand, that area is full to the brim with settlements, and, alternatively, suppose the settlement density there is somewhere in-between … what is the optimum for making the pax judaicae most implementable?
Frankly, dear Mr. Dershowitz, I know not, but if you have an answer, even a vague idea, please whisper it in my ear: If I find it palatable to me, I’ll forward it to my Israeli compatriots – maybe they will find it interesting too.
And till then – make aliyyah, or keep your hands off my country – it isn’t your country!
C. Just suppose …
President Donald Trump has invited the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, for a visit, on May 3, 2017. Mr. Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), the President of the Palestinian Authority, has recently said that he is “ready to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu any time, under Trump’s patronage”, and since Israel can’t reject such an invitation from Trump, we can assume that such a meeting will, sooner or later, take place.
Now suppose – just suppose – that after doing his homework Trump is convinced that the two-state solution is the only one that has a reasonable chance to come true, and Abbas, in front of Trump, Netanyahu and their teams, says that “in the framework of the two-state solution we shall recognize Israel as a Jewish state” … what pretext will Bibi Netanyahu invent in order to evade an intra-Israeli political crisis which will put an end to his career as Israel’s prime minister?
And how will Trump act in the transition period between himself and the next president, when he sees how the Israelis lured him to believe that they will give him his place in history as the only peace-maker between them and the Arabs, but shrewdly thwarted all his peace efforts?
My guess is that Trump will do the same as Obama did. I myself would have done the same if I were in his stead, and so would you, Mr. Dershowitz – correct me if I’m wrong!
And last: Suppose – just suppose – that eventually, in a generation, or several generations’ time, the two-state vision will come true – will President Obama “be tossed into the dustbin of history when it comes to the Middle East”, or will he have streets and squares named after him, in both Israel and Falastin?
Frankly, Mr. Dershowitz, I know not, I can just guess.
Can you too?
My above-mentioned docudrama play, Tsipi Livni and Mahmoud Abbas Talk Peace, was written almost three years ago, following the failure of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
On the eve of Donald Trump’s visit to Israel, last May, I published a “continuation” play: Benjamin Abbas, Mahmoud Trump and Donald J. Netanyahu Make Peace in the Middle East. Read it, Mr. Dershowitz, enjoy it, laugh where it is funny, weep where it is sad, and when the time comes, and everything in this play comes true – just remember that I told you it will.
Upon finishing the writing of this article I googled for Dershowitz’s email, to let him comment on this thesis, and, incidentally, I found that one of his books is titled Chutzpah, the very word I use to describe his own audacity.
In Hebrew we say “prophesied, and did not know what” – so did I.
Let this article be another chapter in the next edition of Alan Dershowitz’s book.
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