November 1, 2005
By CORMAC A. EARLY
Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz called yesterday for a
renewed effort to achieve peace in the Middle East after Yasser Arafat’s
death, in a discussion of his book “The Case for Peace” organized by
Harvard Students for Israel.
At the well-attended event in Emerson Hall, Dershowitz argued that “this
is a time for Israel to be extremely generous.” He said that Israel’s
strategic interests, along with moral imperatives, demand a rapid
resolution of the conflict with Palestinians.
Opening his remarks, Dershowitz criticized the Harvard Law School group
“Justice for Palestine” for inviting Norman G. Finkelstein to speak on
campus Thursday. Finkelstein, a professor of political science at DePaul
University, has angered many Jewish groups with his controversial
positions on Israel and his criticisms of the way the Holocaust has been
Praising Harvard’s tradition of “rational dialogue” on the Middle East,
Dershowitz warned that Finkelstein’s appearance may mark a turning point
in that tradition.
Dershowitz then outlined his suggestions for the peace process,
emphasizing that peace would “require major compromises from both sides.”
Stating that “the end result has to be two states,” Dershowitz said that
any future Palestinian state “will not be contiguous.” He suggested that
high speed rail links, along with water links and fiber-optic
infrastructure, could help to address the problems of communication and
transportation that this would entail.
On the status of Jerusalem, Dershowitz accepted that “it is going to have
to be divided along demographic lines.” However, he pointed out that at
the Camp David peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in
2000, the status of Jerusalem was not problematic. Instead, the major
stumbling block then was the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees
displaced by the 1947-49 war and their descendants.
Rejecting the possibility of this right being implemented, Dershowitz
suggested that the aim of Palestinian leaders in advocating it was to
“demographically destroy Israel” by flooding the country with four million
Palestinians. In its place, Dershowitz suggested a massive aid package,
“in effect a mini-Marshall Plan.”
Dershowitz also advocated Israel’s controversial security fence, which he
claimed is an effective barrier against terrorism, as well as a valuable
bargaining tool. He argued that, as the de facto boundary between the two
states, the fence encourages the Palestinian leadership to come to the
negotiating table to seek a better solution.
However, he said that such a solution should be less generous than the
concessions offered at Camp David, in order to avoid “rewarding [acts of]
terrorism” that have occurred in the intervening years.
Addressing the difficulties of the peace process, he said that the kind of
difficult compromise required is “hard for democracies to make.” He said
that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak relied on continuous polling
data throughout the Camp David talks before offering anything for
Dershowitz finished his talk by highlighting Israel’s strategic interests.
Claiming that Israel could “ignore the Palestinian problem” if it chose to
do so, he emphasized that the most significant threat to Israel comes from
Iran, whose president recently called for Israel to be “wiped off the
Following his talk, Dershowitz opened the floor to questions. Answering
questions on U.S.-Iranian relations, political barriers to peace, and
international law, Dershowitz again emphasized the benefit of rational
discussion of the conflict, something he said is absent from many
“Thank God Israel only has to make peace with the Palestinians, not with
the professors,” he said in closing.