President Barack Obama’s call for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on the 1967 Israeli border dealt a serious blow to the peace process and damaged the global image of the United States, Israeli advocate and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax.TV.
Dershowitz was commenting on Obama’s Thursday address at the State Department in which he pressed Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and set the 1967 border as it existed before the Six-Day War as a starting point. Obama’s position “hurt the peace process gravely,” he said, adding that the president’s declaring such a marker repeated a negotiating error that led to an earlier breakdown in talks when he insisted on a freeze of Israeli settlements in occupied territories.
“He made the same mistake again in this speech,” Dershowitz said. “He put himself ahead of the Palestinians. That is he insisted Israel go back to ’67 borders with land swaps, but he did not demand that the Palestinians give up the right of return.”
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The former Supreme Court law clerk and noted defense lawyer believes the speech will have a “terrible impact” on U.S. Israeli relations and increased the level of distrust dramatically, although “polite discourse” will continue.
“The tragedy is during the Obama administration the prospect of peace has gone further away than it’s ever been in recent years since Israel offered to give the Palestinians a state . . . He’s been ham-handed in how he has dealt with the issue of negotiations and the result is we’re further away than ever before from negotiated peace and that’s in large part the fault of President Obama and I think that’s the terrible tragedy of how he’s handled this process.”
Dershowitz also maintained the speech will damage the country’s image.
“I think also the speech was not particularly good for the United States,” he said. “It set us out in a way that showed naiveté and created a situation where neither side will be encouraged to move toward peace by what the president said. So I think on balance it was a net loss rather than a net gain. And I am disappointed because I favor a two-state solution, I voted for Obama and I was hoping he would have a more sophisticated and realistic approach to negotiations which he doesn’t seem to have. He has twice now set back the prospects for negations and a two state solution.”
Dershowitz also criticized how little time Obama spent on the question of Iran and its nuclear weapons program. Obama devoted few words to the issue in his speech, noting at one point that the United States’ “opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known.”
“The thousand-pound elephant in the room that threatens Israel’s security more than the Palestinians, or the Syrians or the Egyptians is the prospect that Iran will develop nuclear weapons,” Dershowitz said. “Although he threw a little bone against Iranian development of nuclear weapons he did not guarantee Israel that Iran would not be permitted to develop nuclear weapons. In fact he had a big statement saying Israel will have to be prepared to defend itself alone.”
Such language increases the “distress most Israeli’s have in Obama,” Dershowitz said.
“It would have been far better had he not make that speech than that he included the few paragraphs he did about Israel which were ill conceived and I think not helpful to the peace process,” he said.
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