By Larry Gordon
I spent most of Sunday at the Jerusalem Post Conference at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. I heard a lot of speakers explore the issues that confront Israel today from multiple angles and perspectives. There were pro-peace people, former Israeli government operatives, and more right-leaning “cannot trust the Palestinians or anything they say or commit to” types there as well. The consensus from the likes of Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz, former Mossad head Meir Dagan, former head of Israel military intelligence Amos Yadlin, former Israel national security adviser Uzi Arad, and Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick was that the Palestinian Authority cannot be trusted to fulfill any agreements.
Only two people present throughout the day disagreed with this assessment. They were former prime minister Ehud Olmert and famed defense attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. Olmert was roundly booed during his early morning presentation because he essentially says he believes that Israel has to withdraw from Judea and Samaria and divide Jerusalem to ensure that Israel maintain its Jewish character. I think we would all have been better off and would be better off if Olmert would concern himself with his own character and try to stay out of Israel’s plans.
The security experts pontificated about the Iranian threat throughout the early part of the day and then shifted gears to peace with the Palestinians in the later part of the all-day program. Professor Dershowitz’s stance on how Israel should proceed was so outdated he might as well have worn bell-bottoms. Dershowitz, like Olmert, is worried about the Arabs outnumbering the Jewish population in the future if the territorial status quo is maintained. The Arab numbers are fabricated and part of the big lie, so there is no need to be too concerned about the conjured-up demographics becoming real anytime soon.
Dershowitz and Glick went at it pretty good, with the Post writer objecting to Dershowitz denigrating the audience and criticizing them for booing Olmert earlier in the day. “You don’t boo a prime minister,” Dershowitz said. To that Glick retorted, “For a constitutional lawyer determined to protect people’s rights, you seem pretty at ease trying to get people to refrain from expressing themselves freely.”
It was quite a show. Dershowitz thinks Israel needs to freeze settlement-building and then plan to surrender territory. Glick says that’s a waste of time and that the Palestinians have never kept and will never keep any agreements they commit to.
I always liked Dershowitz and the way he usually stands up for the rights of Jews in particular. On Sunday, however, as I watched him intently, I thought he was talking a little crazy. Of course I have read his books and heard him speak several times, and I take what he says at face value. But his entire presentation became a little weird when he began taking complete credit for President Obama’s recent successful trip to Israel. If what he says is true, it would seem that Alan Dershowitz is not only a close friend of President Obama’s but also is his most trusted adviser on issues dealing with Jews and Israel.
Dershowitz said that in his meetings with Obama he advised him to speak out in Israel about the more-than-3,000-year connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. He said that he told the president that to lend any support to the Palestinian suggestion that there is no link between the land and the Jewish people would not only be a denial of Jewish history but also a rejection and repudiation of Christian history.
Which has to make one wonder why the president would say that and why would his advisers allow him to express that sentiment if it would only serve to emphasize and reiterate what many in Israel have been saying since 1967—that places like Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem are part and parcel and inseparable dimensions of Jewish history and have been so for thousands of years. Where do two states for two peoples come into this picture?
Based on Dershowitz’s explanation to Obama and the sincere nature in which he communicated the message to the president, it would lead one to believe that this was a solid reason why it is right for Israel to maintain control of all territory recaptured in 1967. But not to Dershowitz, and according to his claim on Sunday, not to the majority of American Jews.
We can talk about it and Prime Minister Netanyahu can claim that his government is committed to the two-state solution, but those are both tricky and empty words, as that formula has been demonstrated over the last two decades to be unworkable for many reasons.
Once and for all we have to make the distinction between the rhetoric and conversation about peace and the actual signing of agreements and the implementation of peace on the ground between Arabs and Jews. It has been made abundantly clear many times that the Arab side may be prepared to discuss and hypothesize about peace with Israel, but its actualization is further away today than ever before.
So how can someone as smart and pragmatic as Alan Dershowitz seriously suggest that Israel make hard and substantive concessions of territory to the Arabs in exchange for the Palestinian commitment to think about not shooting or stabbing Jews (as they did on Tuesday by stabbing to death a 31-year-old father of five at a bus stop at the Tapuach Junction)? After watching and listening to Dershowitz talk for almost an hour about his vision of peace, I came away convinced that this is the extent of the commitment he advocates—that is to meet, talk about, and discuss peace and the peace process. Nothing else is real.
Caroline Glick, on the panel with Dershowitz that discussed the possibility of two states, took Dershowitz to task, saying at one point that she has to try to catch her breath in order to absorb what Dershowitz is recommending for the Jewish state. Glick, who is completing a book on the historical ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, told Dershowitz that if he knew or understood the history of the Jewish attachment to the land, he might be less enthusiastic about wanting to give it away.
But I don’t know if that is the case. Liberal Jews love talking about “painful concessions” for peace. Yes, it is the land of the Bible, and the Jews have had a presence on the land for more than 3,000 years. Yet, perhaps in spite of these historical facts, we, who love to be called people who love peace, are willing to turn our backs on the land, throw people out of their homes, and award the real estate to an avowed enemy.
If that is the case, we certainly are an amazing people.
According to our Jewish hero, Alan Dershowitz, defender of the Jews (and OJ), Jerusalem must be divided for peace. Never mind that to get from one densely populated Jewish neighborhood to another you would have to traverse parts of the new Palestine and be subjected to being stopped or perhaps even detained by Palestinian police.
In addition, Dershowitz has written in his book on Israel that the Muslim Quarter should be returned to Palestinian rule. What happens under this plan to the Jews that reside there? Do they have to be thrown out of their homes? What about the fact that the Muslim Quarter has only been known by this name since 1936, when the Jews were expelled from the neighborhood, which was once known simply as Jerusalem.
And then what about the Palestinian people? Do they want peace with their Jewish neighbors? What about their leadership? They do not seem too determined to reach a deal that allows the two peoples to live side by side.
Another presenter at the event was Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. He spoke glowingly of U.S.–Israel relations. He said Israel had recently played host to three of the highest-ranking American officials—President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. All three, the ambassador said, made clear pronouncements about Israel’s right “to defend itself, by itself,” and this is in specific reference to the Iranian nuclear threat. Mr. Oren seemed extremely pleased and satisfied that the Americans made such clear declarations on the subject.
Ms. Glick said she didn’t want to talk about Iran or the Palestinians, but rather focused her message on American Jews and our disposition to tolerate the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement on American college campuses. Glick said that Jews are not speaking out or protesting these movements vociferously enough, and as a result the movements are picking up steam and multiplying. “Make no mistake,” she said; “BDS is about destroying Israel.”
It was a great day for Israel in New York, notwithstanding the odd, quirky, and outdated philosophies enunciated by Professor Dershowitz. When segments of the more than 1,500 gathered heckled him, Dershowitz told the audience that 72% of American Jews side with him and that 67% of Israelis agree with his positions. And he told the audience, which paid between $200 and $500 per person to attend, that they were irrelevant. Scary stuff. v
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