Alan Dershowitz vs. David Solway on Obama and Israel

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I will continue to be critical of policies with which I disagree and supportive of policies with which I agree, without regard to the political affiliation of the president. I will vote for the presidential candidate who I believe is best for America and for the world, and in making that calculation I will consider their policies toward Israel because I believe that strong support for Israel’s security is good for America and for the world. And I will try my best to see that support for Israel’s security remains a bipartisan issue, despite destructive efforts of some to make such support a wedge issue and the election a referendum that Israel could lose.

Solway: As I wrote in 2009, commenting on Professor Dershowitz’s well-publicized debate with Melanie Philips, who had expressed her suspicions regarding President Obama’s intentions toward Israel, it is hard to believe how erudite intellectuals  ho write with precision, flair, and lucidity can nevertheless lend their support to Barack Obama.

Professor Dershowitz argued then, and does so now, that Israel should not be allowed to become a “wedge issue” in the upcoming elections. But as I contended then, and do so now, he appears unwilling to recognize, as Philips did, that support for Israel does not divide along the right-left axis but is primarily a moral issue. Israel already has considerable bipartisan support. What is needed is not more subtle argumentation to justify the president’s volatile strategy for resolving the Middle East imbroglio or a sagacious caution to avoid polarization. What is needed is realism. Tactical prudence, as Jews above all people might have learned by now, is not always effective against a determined adversary.

What is all too readily papered over is that Obama’s reneging on the settlement consensus worked out between Israel and the former American administration, his patently skewed Cairo address that equated the Holocaust with Palestinian suffering and tellingly ignored the historical and continued presence of the Jewish people in the Holy Land, his appointing manifestly anti-Israeli figures like Susan Rice and Samantha Power to positions of official eminence, his well-attested friendships with the virulently anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright and former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi, and his studious avoidance of Israel during his presidential junkets — all this and more does not seem to have had the slightest impact on those of the president’s supporters who affect to be pro-Israel.

Further, there is more at stake than the question of Israel, grave as that might be. I would argue—and have on many occasions on this site and others—that Obama is bad for America, as I briefly tried to indicate in the original article to which Professor Dershowitz has replied. And yet, I cannot see that he has dealt with any of the specific points I made there or countered my arguments, but has merely stated a rather general position. This is unfortunate. For the issue that should concern all of us, whether we are pro-Israel or not, is that a president who has estranged his allies, “reached out” to self-declared enemies, alarmingly inflated the American debt, relied on executive privilege to suppress critical intelligence (“Fast and Furious”), bypassed Congress in his Libyan adventure, subsidized unsustainable Green energy projects at enormous and unrecoverable cost to the taxpayer (Solyndra, etc.), brought legal suit under the auspices of his Department of Justice against states  intent on rationalizing voter rolls and trying to control illegal immigration, and engaged in a policy of redistributionist economics that has failed wherever it has been tried—among many other such transgressions—such a president is a national disaster.

It is not only the future of Israel which is in the crosshairs. It is the destiny of a great republic that is being decided. Professor Dershowitz and I will disagree with respect to what is best for Israel and for America. Such disagreement is entirely legitimate. I would emphasize only, in pursuing the debate, we should scrupulously examine all the evidence that is available to us.

Dershowitz: No president has ever satisfied me with regard to his policies toward Israel.  Every president has refused to do the right thing when it comes to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  There may be room for disagreement about some parts of Jerusalem that were captured by Israel during its defensive war with Jordan, but there is no room for disagreement about the status of West Jerusalem, where the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s office, and the President’s residence have always been located.  I have been and will remain critical of any president who wrongly believes that recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and placing our embassy there will make it more difficult to achieve peace.

I have also disagreed with presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who have suggested that Israel’s settlement policy is the major barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  The major barrier has always been, and remains, the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, to renounce their absurd claim to a so-called “right of return,” and to accept reasonable offers from Israel regarding the borders of the West Bank.  Though I oppose Israel’s settlement policy on democratic grounds, I insist that the continuing occupation is largely the result of Palestinian refusal to accept the reasonable compromises offered by Israel. At bottom, therefore, this dispute is more about land than it is about human rights, because the Palestinians can secure their human rights by being willing to compromise over land, as the Jews did both in 1938, when they accepted the Peel Commission Report, and in 1948 when they accepted the UN Partition Plan.

There have been better and worse presidents when it comes to Israel, some of the best have been Republicans, as have some of the worst.  Some of the best have been Democrats, as have been some of the worst.  No president has been perfect, and no president has been perfectly bad.  (Though Eisenhower may have come close.)

Most presidents have had mixed records. President Reagan, for example, who is often put forward as the model of a pro-Israel president, voted to condemn Israel for its proper decision to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. And President Carter, the model of an anti-Israel president, helped bring about a old peace with Egypt.

I approve of President Obama’s policies on the rights of women, gays and racial and religious minorities. I support his health care bill, his approach to immigration, the environment and taxes, and his judicial appointments. If I believed that his foreign policies endangered Israel’s security, that would weigh heavily on my decision how to vote. But I believe that there would be no major differences between a President Obama and a President Romney when it comes to Israel’s security.

I  will continue to be critical of policies with which I disagree, without regard to the political affiliation of the president. And I will try my best to see that support for Israel’s security remains a bipartisan issue, despite the well-intentioned but misguided efforts of some to make such support a wedge issue and the election a referendum that Israel could lose.

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  • Anamah

    Israel is everything from the Jordan River to the Mediterraneam Sea. The so called Palestinians must present their claims to Jordan.

  • Rolando Robles

    Israel must be purged from being an incubus of the U.S. to cease its control of Congress and to stop it from bing a subversion of the American democracy through its economic power, symbolized by the AIPAC!

    • bkopicz

      Dont forget Area 51

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Thanks to OPEC, the entire world is raped for overpriced oil.

      P.S. "Rolando" socialist scumbags like yourself will always lose. It's the American Way.

  • Bud MacFarlane

    Tell Alan, there is a little Bud MacFarlane in all of us.

  • Schlomotion

    Mr. Dershowitz strains credibility on many occasions, but by comparison, Mr. Solway is just plain loony. He argues for a more "realist" position than Mr. Deshowitz's. Mr. Dershowitz's position is that pro-Israel fanatics should not make this election a partisan referendum on Israel. He takes the long and broad view. Mr. Solway's "realistic" position is that he should make it a moral issue and resort to boilerplate demagoguery with Israelis as the most moral people on Earth and anyone who disagrees with them immoral. Mr. Solway, Canadian, faults the American President for visiting this country and not that country, and for not making more public appearances for Hasbara's sake when he has the Free World to run. If the objective was to make Mr. Dershowitz look like a political mastermind, then bravo.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Obama is the friend of every Islamofascist regime in the world.

      Even the left hates Obama.

  • rebel

    Dershowitz is a disappointment. I have thought that he has seen daylight. Unfortunatelly, his religion is still liberalism. Of course he is afraid of "making Israel a wedge issue" as his many leftist Jews friends. Democrats are maybe supporting Israel but they supporting Obama more and these two things could hardly be comperable . Obama is to the detriment to both of the USA and Israel. His reelection would be a catastrophic event in our time, because after the election he does not to have even pretend to be friendly to America or Israel.

  • weroinnm

    Godfather of The Islamic Revolution! http://weroinnm.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/godfathe
    “Food For Thought”
    Semper Fi!

  • Chaim from The Bronx

    Dupes abound among the Jewish voting public, yes, but Dershowitz isn't one of them. He's too smart to believe what he says about Obama's stance toward Israel. I don't think he's simply blinded by leftist ideology either.

    It boils down to this: he detests traditional Jewish religion and beliefs, and all Jews who hold them dear, and he knows full well that they won't surrender Jerusalem or the ancient Jewish homelands in Judea and Samaria to genocidal maniacs, because doing so would be the undoing of Israel.

    Obama knows this too, and that's why he's working to force Israel to do exactly that. Dershowitz, for his part, is a secular zealot who, rather than see Jewish tradition thrive, would sooner see Israel fall altogether.

    The two of them are like peas in a pod.

    • Bert

      I agree and feel that Dershowitz receives altogether too much attention.
      We should be listening to far better people than Dershowitz.

      • SCREW SOCIALISM

        There are plenty of better people.

        Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Gingrich, Santorum.

        Ignore any "socialist" "progressive" "islamist".

  • kasandra

    Prof. Dershowitz's view is the same as that expressed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz after Obama, while Prime Minister Netanyahu was on his way to the U.S., announced that as an initial position Israel should agree to return to the 1949 Armistice Lines (i.e., the "'67 borders"). At that time she warned that Jews should not use Obama's Middle East Policy as an issue. The only reason relevant to both Dershowitz and Wassermanseems to be that recognizing this issue would decrease Jewish support for Obama. Is it even arguable that Obama's policies have been good for Israel? I won't go into chapter and verse but any fair view of is policies, plus his articulated policy of "putting daylight" between the U.S. in Israel, indicates that he is no friend of Israel's and, as will be the case with his Russia policy, he will be able to be even more "flexible" should he be re-elected.

  • dnha14

    Professor Dershowitz said: "Does that mean that the long bipartisan history of support for Israel has ended?"
    The professor is dreaming. It ended 4 years ago.

  • Moishe Pupick

    M., August 06, 2012 common era
    Professor Dershowitz is just another Ivy League Jewish intellectual who uses his admittedly
    outstanding lawyer's skills to try to get us American Jews to believe that 2 plus 2 equals 5. I remember watching a public debate between the late Rabbi Meier Kahane, zt'l, and Professor Dershowitz. In my opinion, the Rabbi won that debate hands down. Dershowitz lacks "street smarts."

  • geopeyton

    To paraphrase someone I'd guess Prof. Dershowitz admires, he won't see success for Israel until he learns to love Israel more than he hates conservatives. And I don't see that happening.

  • Jim

    Kahane always wins the argument. He quickly saw that the protesting the war in Viet Nam would one day be turned back and would lead to attacks on Israels. Did he get it right? You betcha.

    Unlike the rebels from Orthodox Judaism which have turned liberal he organized defense against the physical assaults that targeted Orthodox Jews. The liberals did nothing. The Liberal Jews almost seem to hate the Orthodox.

    He was hired to spy on the John Birch society. He reported back that he thought them nuts but a threat to no one.
    This at a time when the Liberals were using The John Birch Society as a Red Herring against conservitives. He gave an honest report which makes him a Saint in politics.

    Good for you Moishe.

  • mlcblog

    It continues to run true that liberalism is a mental disorder. Basic psychology, recovery classes and tenets reveal that emotion clouds reason. Further, I agree with Moishe P that Dershowitz lacks street knowledge, tends to be very Ivory Tower in his being. Mr. D desires so much to be loved by his leftist friends and looked up to as a loyal leader and wise man. It is sad when one sees through it. Desperation!! (I know because I am painfully coming out of my leftist, idealizing-man cocoon.)

    • Lisa_H

      Mr. Dershowitz lives in an alternate universe. Mr. Solway has a clear argument which is SADLY answered by platitudes and generalities.
      And mlcblog: congratulations! I think many of us "turned" to sanity and reason. When just about everyone around us espouses a certain [incorrect] view, it is very very hard to see the truth clearly. I maintain that we must first see the truth in ourselves and then use that as a mirror, something that you have evidently been doing (correct me if I'm wrong).

      • mlcblog

        Thank you, Lisa H. Yes. it is hard but oh, so nice to be thinking with sanity for the first time ever!! I get it straight from God himself. He says in his Word if we ask for wisdom He will give it liberally and with no condemnation.

  • amused

    And now the Repopcons throw Dershowitz under the bus , fir the sake of their partisan obssesiveness . You'll not find a more stalwart and intelligent supporter of Israel than Dershowitz A man too smart to be duped by your Obama Hate Syndrome .
    You guys are truly SCHMUCKS of the highest order .What a sorry ,sorry lot .

  • Chaim from Tokyo

    I'm no soothsayer, but years before he did it, it hit me: Yukio Mishima was going to commit seppuku.

    It was no big deal, just plain to see, clear as day. But if I said it, people gave me a look, so I let it pass.

    And then, sure enough, he did.

    What's the point?

    Obama wants to wipe out Israel. It is a big deal. And if reelected, he'll make his play to do it.

  • amused

    When it comes to "presumptions and asssumptions" you folks take the cake . What "disqualifies Dershowitz from the human race " is ONE THING , and you all know it…..the fact that he supports Obama . And to your brainwashed lot that 's enough for condemnation . The amazing thing about this rabid hatred of all things obama is that facts are tossed aside in favor of biased and bigoted opinion . And it's there in virtually every issue , sucking up eagerly ANYTHING which originates in the Breitbart polluted blogosphere , in fact several of the alleged joirnalists here jump back and forth feverishly maintainning the high pitch accusations and in many cases plain ole' LIES . And you'er proven WRONG in most cases , like the recent Aurora Massacre , you all accused that Psychiatrist of being a liberal and evrey other meme in your slanderous ideology , youv even knew her reasons for allegedly dpoing NOTHNG regarding Holmes .

  • Amused

    so , yesterday the truth came out , that Psychiatrist ,weeks prior to the shooting , broke with patient /doctor confidentiality and WARNED COLORADO CAMPUS POLICE , that, Holmes was an imminent danger to himself and others , which IS within protocol . What did the cops do ? You all prejudged and condemned her , tagged her as one of those typical educated lefties , and then after much blather and baseless accusations ,quickly mounted your crucifixes and posed as the "perpetually persecuted " . What a hatefull bunch . So the next victim of your rabid animus is ..Dershowitz . Why ? How so this fall from grace ? He stated support for Obama , therefore he falls in the category of those who voted for him[ the other half of the electorate] who in your view are TRAITORS and DESIRE ISRAEL'S Destruction .How long before you discredit Abe Lincoln and praise Booth ?

  • Amused

    What a bunch of sick , sick puppies .

  • Murray

    With economic disaster looming, the world will again need a scapegoat, and Jews will always fill that bill. Liberal Jews don their traditional cloth of acquiescence in the ridiculous hope that they will be spared if they just don't antagonize anyone. No, even keeping your heads down and avoiding becoming the "wedge issue", you won't dodge the bullet. Obama, the Islamists, and their masters will see to that. Good luck. If civilization is to survive Israel must survive.

  • Amused

    No matter what your perception of those you tag as "liberal jews " , the world will STILL make scapegoats of the Jews . And it wont have anything at all to do with liberal or conservative jews . It didn't matter during the Black Plagues , it didn't matter during the Inquisitions , nor the Pogroms in Russia or the Soviets Union and it's satellites , or during the Nazi Regime , or even now with the arabs and muslims . Jews could be left , right , conservative or liberal they will always be the world's scapegoat . And now something 'new ' but really old , jews getting scapegoated in the US for not towing the party line , not fitting the christian fundamentalist narrative of what they should be and how they should behave . Israel WILL survive , and not by Obama nor anyone elses hand , in addition you are writing off roughly HALF of Israelis themselves who are divided between those who are of the belief that peace is possible with the palestinians and really dont care if Jerusalem is the capitol , and those who believe the opposite on both issues .

  • Amused

    So be careful all you "zealots " lol…jew and gentile alike , for to continue on your present course , you will soon be condemning half of Israelis and eventually find yourselves condemning Israel itself lest it behaves in a way , not in accordance with your narrative .

  • Gamaliel

    Dershowitz said he didn't think there would be a big difference between a Republican or Democrat in the White house when it comes to Israel but if Obama is in Iran will produce nuclear bombs, if Mitt Romney is in, Iran won't. You can't get more different than that.

  • Bill Narvey

    Dershowitz warns against making Israel's security a wedge issue in the upcoming election. His fear essentially is bound up in his question of David Solway, that if it is made a wedge issue, what happens to Israel should Obama win re-election?

    Good question, but Dershowitz is blind to the very negative assumption he makes that is implied in his question. That assumption is that if Israel is made a wedge issue and Obama wins, he will turn on Israel because American Jews turned on him.

    Dershowtiz's assumption upon which his caution against making Israel a wedge issue rests and which he appears blind to, is that Obama is really anti-Israel, petty and vindictive.

    If Dershowtiz was not so blind to what in his heart of hearts he knows of Obama's character, he would not be so quick to defend and support Obama.

  • obamawarner

    David Solway is right of course. And part of Dershowitz' response is obscene.
    "You cannot question Obama regarding Israel, otherwise you turn Israel support into a partisan issue". Yeah, exactly. Wait, what? So effectively this Obama mouthpiece is saying that you cannot criticize Obama, or he will become even more anti-Israel. Well, how clear do you want to spell out the word blackmail.
    But then on the substance of the issue: Iran has never propelled quicker to nukes than under Obama's tenure. He has effectively given Iran the green light, done NOTHING at all to stop it, rather than some election year window dressing (sanctions will stop the mad mullahs? Ooh please….).
    The picture is clear: Obama hates Israel, Romney loves Israel. A vote for Obama is a vote for iranian nukes, and thus perhaps a second holocaust. See my blog (obamavsisrael.com) where I detail the threat Obama poses to the jewish state.