Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who has become one of Israel’s most committed and articulate advocates, on Wednesday emphatically hailed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as a potential partner for peace, calling him “the best that Israel has, and probably the best that Israel has ever had.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post immediately after a 90-minute meeting with Fayyad in Ramallah, their first meeting, Dershowitz said Fayyad “genuinely would like to bring peace and a two-state solution, based on his conception of what a two-state solution would look like.”

This, he stressed, was “very different” from Israel’s conception, in matters relating to security, among others. But overall, said Dershowitz, Fayyad’s differences with Israel fell into the realm of “reasonable disagreement.”

“I didn’t hear a single argument that seemed unreasonable,” said Dershowitz, adding, “The same goes for my recent meetings with Israeli leaders.”

Thus, he said, “you have reasonable people [on both sides] disagreeing over reasonable issues.

“Whether that gulf can be bridged is a hard question,” he said. “But we’re in the realm of reasonable disagreement, and that’s a big step forward.”

It was very different from the Arafat era, he said, to encounter “reason and civil disobedience” on the Palestinian side, compared to the previous “unreason and terror.”
Nonetheless, he stressed that his glowing assessment of Fayyad did not necessarily encompass the PA leadership as a whole.

“I don’t think you can generalize from him to others,” he said. “It’s not clear to me that he speaks for the [PA] government, even though he’s the prime minister. But [it is significant] that he’s entrusted with so important a position.”

Dershowitz said he had asked Fayyad “hard questions” about PA support for the Goldstone Report, about Fayyad’s campaign against Israel’s joining the OECD, about PA incitement against Israel, and about his campaign to boycott settlement goods.

The professor, author of The Case for Israel and The Case Against Israel’s Enemies, said Fayyad did not attempt to claim that the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead was accurate, that “he didn’t seem too unhappy” to have lost the OECD battle, and that he condemned incitement.

Himself a critic of the settlement enterprise, Dershowitz said that Fayyad had “a very good point in using nonviolent means” to show opposition to the settlements.

As far as other final-status issues were concerned, Dershowitz said he did not believe Fayyad, “as a pragmatist,” would make “the same fatal mistake that Arafat did and give up on peace over a fake right of return.”

On security, he went on, “Fayyad argued against IDF troops periodically entering Ramallah and in favor of bolstering the internal PA security forces. He makes a persuasive case,” said Dershowitz, adding the caveat: “These aren’t areas I’m expert in.”

Allowing that “maybe I’m too optimistic,” Dershowitz said, “I’m prepared to err on that side. I’m not saying Israel should err on that side... I’m so used to hearing from Palestinian leaders who give me nothing to hold onto.”

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