Daily Israel Report

INN Exclusive: Dershowitz on UN Post: Fears Dual Loyalty Charges

Leading Israel advocate Prof. Alan Dershowitz says he is “currently” not agreeing to be Israel's UN Ambassador. but is keeping an “open mind.”
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 5/20/2010, 4:13 PM / Last Update: 5/20/2010, 3:07 PM

Samuel Dershowitz

Leading Israel advocate and top American lawyer Prof. Alan Dershowitz says he is “currently” against accepting the position of Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, but is keeping an “open mind.”

Dershowitz spoke with Israel National News after concluding a meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Thursday. The respected Harvard law professor has also met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders on his current nine-day trip, and is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu yet again. The two are to discuss, once more, the prime minister’s offer to have Dershowitz serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“The truth is that nothing would give me more fulfillment and satisfaction than to fill such a position,” Dershowitz said. “It’s a job that people like Abba Eban, Danny Gillerman and even Netanyahu himself have filled, and I would be greatly honored. However, though I am keeping an open mind on the issue, I currently feel that I cannot take it, mainly because of the perceptions of dual loyalty that could arise.”

He said he would have "no problem at all" becoming an Israeli citizen, as he would be required to do if he were to assume the job. “The problem is that if an issue comes up in which the US and Israel disagree, such as Iran, I would have to come down on the side of the one who is right.”

Whereupon the professor was asked: “If, for instance, Israel feels it has to attack Iran in a given situation, and the U.S. tells it not to, who would be right?”

“Israel,” he said. “And there are of course many other issues of conflict that could arise that are not as acute… Currently, I feel that I cannot take such a position in which these conflicts could arise – but I promised Bibi that I would keep an open mind on it, at least until the end of my visit here...”

Settlements: Not Illegal, but Bad
Dershowitz was asked about his opposition to the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria and the freeze on Jewish construction there. “I did not say the settlements were illegal,” he said about the 120-plus communities in which some 300,000 Jews reside. “I said they are not good for Israel and that I oppose them. I think that the freeze is a good thing for Israel - though it should be accompanied by Israel’s just demands for an end to Palestinian incitement, an end to the hatred spread at mosques at Friday prayers, and an end to other PA activities such as trying to have the International Criminal Court in The Hague pursue the Goldstone Report.”

“The Palestinians continue to violate their commitments in these areas,” Dershowitz said, “and they must be held to task. But even if these violations continue, it is in Israel’s interest to freeze construction – especially in places that are to be given over to the PA. But in areas such as Maaleh Adumim and Ramat Shlomo, which everyone knows will remain in Israeli hands, the freeze is more of a symbolic nature.”

PA Must be Demilitarized
Dershowitz was emphatic that a future Palestinian state, if it arises, must be demilitarized. “I believe that’s being taken as a given. In my meeting with [PA prime minister] Salam Fayyad, the alternative did not even come up.” Asked how long the demilitarization might be expected to last, he said that Israeli deterrence would have to continue to be strong: “Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting an end to [Israel’s] military occupation in the absence of real peace; there is some confusion about that. I have said that there must be border changes in keeping with UN resolution 242, and that there should be no Jewish settlements – but also that the military occupation must continue until peace is achieved.”

U.S.: No Anti-Semitism, Yes Delegitimization
Asked about American Jewry, Dershowitz said there is no anti-Semitism in the United States, nor is there “rising Muslim influence – and even in Europe I’m not so sure that Muslim influence is rising so strongly. But one thing there is in the U.S. is an increasing trend to de-legitimize Israel, especially on campuses, and this must be fought – and is being fought.”

“It is not helpful to say that Obama is an enemy of Israel,” Prof. Dershowitz said. “I am not embarrassed to have voted for him; he is much more helpful to Israel than was Bush. He is against the settlements, but – so far – he has supported Israel’s security. While Bush loved Israel, he was not helpful to Israel, for instance, regarding Syria and [Iran/Iraq]… There might be some in Obama’s administration who don’t love Israel as much as in previous administrations, but Obama could prove to be more helpful to Israel in the long run by pressuring it to reach peace with the Palestinians and be rid of the settlements.”

“In my meetings with Israeli leaders, they all tell me that I should continue to support Obama,” Dershowitz said. Asked if this was a matter of tactics or of real policy, he said, “Both.”

Dershowitz described his talk with Gen. Ashkenazi as “wonderful,” and said, “The more I meet Israeli leaders, the more my confidence in the Israeli political and military systems increase. Ashkenazi, for instance, is very concerned about Israeli lives, but also about Palestinian lives. If all generals were as humane as he is, the world would be a better place.”

Among the topics the two discussed were the legal and political aspects of the Goldstone Report, “an issue that always comes up in my meetings with Israeli leaders. It is something that is not going away, and I very much hope the International Crimes Court does not seek to pursue the report’s anti-Israel allegations. If it does, that could be the end of the ICC – because the United States would absolutely not go along with it. I support the ICC, and I very much hope that it does not make this mistake.”

Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Beit El
At a small gathering in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Prof. Dershowitz said that though he is against the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, he does not view the Gush Etzion bloc as a candidate for losing Israeli sovereignty. Nor does he support the division of Jerusalem: “After the Jerusalem Day celebration at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav [at which Netanyahu spoke, after having arrived there with Dershowitz, who sat on the dais], a Haaretz reporter called me up and thanked me. I asked him why, and he said that I had apparently influenced Netanyahu not to say anything - for the first time at such an event - in favor of an undivided Jerusalem. I replied that not only do I not have any influence over Netanyahu, but I also do not support dividing Jerusalem!”

Exuding warmth and friendliness at the gathering, even as he expressed opinions with which most of the participants did not agree, he even expressed willingness to visit Beit El – one of the communities whose existence he opposes. “Probably not this time around, but hopefully on my next trip,” he said.