‘We are not done with Goldstone’

ByDAVID HOROVITZ
May 21, 2010 22:30

Alan Dershowitz, arguably Israel’s staunchest defender abroad, loses his customary cool.




Alan Dershowitz speaks to the 'Post.'

Alan Dershowitz 311. (photo credit:Ariel Jerozolimski)

Alan Dershowitz is balanced, poised, calculated and nuanced, but when it comes to Richard Goldstone, the Harvard Law professor and celebrated appellate lawyer loses his cool.

Until Goldstone arises in our interview, Dershowitz sits contemplatively as he answers questions, his hands clasped as if posing for a portrait. But upon mention of the South African judge, Dershowitz thrusts his arms in the air, fists clenched, as he charges the author of the UN report on the Gaza war with “using his Jewishness as both a sword and a shield.”

Dershowitz has called his former friend immoral and a traitor for putting his name behind the report, and has compared his defense of his judicial role under apartheid to the infamous “I was just following orders” employed by Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

“Why do I call Goldstone a traitor?” Dershowitz asks rhetorically. “Because he knew he was being asked to serve [on the UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza] only because he was Jewish. He knew he was being asked to give a hechsher to an absolutely treif report. He knew that the UN Human Rights Council was an illegitimate organization. He was asked to lend it legitimacy. Exactly what he was asked to do by the apartheid government. He was asked to use his robe to give judicial cover to an illegitimate racist regime and he did it twice. He did it during the apartheid regime, and he did it to give legitimacy to the UN Human Rights Council. If he as a Jew had not had his name on that report, no one would have taken it seriously.”

As for Goldstone's work as a judge under apartheid, Dershowitz says: “His defense of ‘I was just following orders’ is much like the defense used by German judges, and Goldstone authorized the torture of blacks in what’s euphemistically called flogging but is torture under international law.... If the statute of limitations were still viable, he could be prosecuted as a criminal for authorizing the torture of blacks in South Africa. He couldn’t defend himself by saying ‘I was just following a law.’ You cannot follow a law that authorized torture. Particularly torture that had nothing to do with national security. It was punitive.”

Dershowitz doesn't buy the argument in Goldstone’s defense that as apartheid came to an end he was appointed, with the concurrence of Nelson Mandela, to head a commission of inquiry into the excesses of the South African security forces.

“He’s an opportunist,” counters Dershowitz. “He goes where the wind blows.... I think there was an agreement by both sides, much like Northern Ireland, to bury the past. I’m not part of that agreement. I don’t have to bury the past. Remember too that in Germany after [John] McCloy pardoned all the Nazi war criminals, there was an agreement also. Many of them served as judges, many of them served with distinction, but memory has its claims.”

Dershowitz agrees, though, that Israel should have launched its own committee of inquiry well before the UN sent its team to the area.

“Yes, I think what it should have done was preempt the Goldstone report,” he says. “I wrote about that when Goldstone was first appointed. I think there should have been a preemptive Goldstone done by Israel itself, pointing out the flaws and the fallacies and the mistakes that were made. I still think there ought to be now an independent evaluation of the Israeli investigation. That is the Israeli military is investigating itself....

“I have spoken to some of the people conducting the investigation and I have a high level of confidence that it will be a thorough investigation, but think it would be good to get three or so distinguished Israelis to look at the process by which the Israeli military self-evaluated to see whether it was a valid process, to see whether it could be improved at certain points, to see whether certain issues should be looked at more probingly.”

Asked whether he thinks, for example, that the decision to hit Palestinian police cadets on the first day of the Gaza war was justified, Dershowitz replies without hesitation: “Absolutely. I think that if you look at the history of the Palestinian police and you look at the statements and rules of engagement that were given to the Palestinian police, they were a military target. They were told that their job was to defend the land and people against an Israeli invasion. It’s a paramilitary organization. You can have an argument on the other side, but certainly Israel reasonably believed that it was a military organization.

“That though is not the essence of the Goldstone report. The essence of Goldstone is that at the highest levels of Israeli government and the Israeli military the real purpose of Operation Cast Lead was not to protect the citizens of Sderot. That [according to Goldstone] was a cover. The ‘real purpose’ was to kill Palestinian civilians. That’s just false. B’Tselem says that’s false, various other Israeli human rights organizations that are extremely critical of Israel and of Operation Cast Lead say that’s false.

“Richard Goldstone wasn’t even aware that it was in the report. I’m not even confident that he read the whole report before it was issued. He was there to put that stamp – I’m a Jew. I’m Goldstone, I’m going to put the stamp on the report, maybe if I have time later I’ll read it. I’ll put the stamp on the report, then you can circulate it to the world saying that ‘Goldstone said it was okay.’

“The only regret that the UN council has is that his name wasn’t Goldstein,” he continues. “That would have made it even more powerful and even more Jewish. They had to settle for Goldstone, and say over and over that hey, it may be Goldstone but he’s Jewish, he’s Jewish, he’s Jewish and he’s Jewish. This is argument by ethnic identification; if a Jew says Israel is wrong, it must be correct. That argument by ethnic identification is a variation of the old classic fallacy of argument ad hominem.”

Dershowitz is convinced that Goldstone will continue to haunt Israel for a long time, both on the judicial front and in case of future conflict.

“We are not done with Goldstone. Goldstone’s goal,” Dershowitz adds, “was to make sure Israel never fights another war like Operation Cast Lead. Soldiers will be concerned. I heard a joke from someone in the air force that Israel has asked the US for a new F-16 that has three seats: one for the pilot, one for the navigator and one for the lawyer.”

DERSHOWITZ, 71, grew up in Brooklyn as the son of Orthodox parents, although today he defines himself as a post-denominational Jew. He attended Yeshiva University High School, where he was told by his principal that he should think of a career where he could use his mouth a lot but not his brain, and went on to become a full professor at Harvard Law School at 28.

“It was Rabbi Zuroff, the principal. He’s now probably in his 90s.... I love him even though he didn’t love me. He called me in one day and said, ‘You know, Avi, you have a really good mouth but a Yiddishe kopf, a good Jewish brain.... You ought to think of a career where you use your mouth a lot but not your brain. I have two suggestions: one, you should be a lawyer, or two, you should be a Conservative rabbi.’ The Conservative rabbi was the biggest insult he could come up with because he couldn’t even pronounce the word Reform.”

Dershowitz has been called America’s “most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer,” “the best-known criminal lawyer in the world” and “the top lawyer of last resort.” He is also referred to as Israel’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.

Our interview takes place over coffee at Mishkenot Sha’ananim overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City. Dershowitz is here to receive honorary degrees from Tel Aviv University and Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center. As ever, he is much in demand, giving several interviews a day and meeting with leaders from all sides, including Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He filled The Jerusalem Post in on the results of that meeting immediately afterward.

Why does Israel need someone to make the case for it? 

I wish it didn’t. No one has to make the case for France, or the case for Canada. Israel has been selectively prosecuted in the court of public opinion, and now, increasingly, in courts of law. And now, just as early in my career, when I defended African Americans who were selectively prosecuted, and dissidents against the war in Vietnam who were selectively prosecuted, I’ve now devoted a substantial part of my career to defending Israel when it has been improperly and selectively charged under a double standard.

If Israel were to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians, wouldn’t that double standard end?

I wish. No, I don’t think so. But I think my job would get easier. The extremist movement against Israel focuses on 1948, not 1967; it regards Haifa and Tel Aviv as occupied territory. I think that in America that movement has little credibility, but in Europe it has a great deal.

I see two dangerous trends in the United States: One, a falling-off of support among some Democrats, traditional Democrats in Congress, people like Congressman [Bill] Delahunt, who have traditionally been friends of Israel and now have moved away somewhat. They’ll tell you that they have only adopted J Street instead of AIPAC and are supportive of Israel; certainly none of them would challenge Israel’s legitimacy or right to exist as a Jewish state. [But] the falling-off among some Democrats is a trend at least to be watched. Also the falling-off among some young people. We’re winning the fight on college campuses. And we’re winning it as long as we can be critical of Israeli policies. I find most students on American college campuses won’t accept the whole hog – to use an inappropriate phrase for Israel – Israeli policies on settlements and the West Bank, but most of them are supportive of Israel’s security.

You could be seen as an establishment figure. Are you the right person to be making Israel’s case on college campuses?

I make what I call the 80 percent case on colleges. I don’t support the settlements, or all Israel’s policies, so I think I do have credibility.... Look , I need help. I want more young people, I want people of color, I want people who are Asian, people who are Latino. I want to broaden the support for Israel. I think it’s very important that the elder generation, what we colloquially call the elders of Zion – me and Irwin Cotler and Elie Wiesel and others of my generation – can’t be the only spokespeople for Israel on university campuses. We need a lot more help from young people and a more diverse group of people. We need more women making the case of Israel.

That’s why I’ve had a proposal for years – although no one has listened to me in Israel – to create a structure for making the 80% case for Israel that is outside the government, that is much like the Bank of Israel, that has independence, that is staffed only by professionals, no political people, that could use people like [author] Amos Oz to make the case for Israel, people who are critical of particular Israeli polices. Their job is not to defend the government of Israel but the State of Israel, to brand it, to make it more widely accepted and better understood. And that would be staffed with young people, people with very diverse backgrounds and targeted to very particular audiences.

Can you win over people from the radical left or is it more about stopping the fringes winning over the mainstream?

No. I’ll tell you a story that will help illustrate it. I spoke at [the University of California at] Irvine about a year ago... before [Israeli Ambassador] Michael Oren was shut down... they tried to shut him down. They shut me down too; they were screaming, but I just spoke over them. You could see that there were three groups in the audience. A group on my left that were wearing blue and white, some of them were wearing kippot, some of them were waving an Israeli flag. There was a group on my right that were wearing Palestinian garb, anti-Israel shirts, and a very large group in the middle.

So I started off by saying, “How many of you identify yourselves as pro-Israel,” hands went up. “How many would identify yourselves as pro-Palestine,” hands went up. “I want to ask the pro-Israel people, how many of you accept a Palestinian state, a non-terrorist state, a demilitarized state living side by side in peace with Israel.” Every hand went up. I said, “I want to now turn to the pro-Palestinians. How many of you would accept a non-settlement, non-expansionist, peaceful state living side by side.” There was some mumbling, some discussion, but not a single hand went up.

I won the debate right at that point with the 800 or 900 in the middle. They understood this was not pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. It was pro-Israel on one side, and anti, anti, anti on the other side. And so you don’t try ever to convert Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein or the extremists on the Left. They won’t listen to reason. You only try to use them in a very non-Kantian way. To use these extremists to help you win over the middle, to win over the hearts and minds of the people who have an open mind.

ON THAT point of making the case for Israel, Dershowitz was recently reported to have been offered the soon-to-be-vacant post of Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an offer he has neither confirmed nor denied receiving.

“I can’t comment on specific offers. I can only say it would be a great honor for me to serve in any capacity to defend Israel in front of any international body. I took it as a great honor and show of respect, and it would be something I would love to do if I could do it alongside my obligations as a patriotic American citizen. My concern is if I were to take on an official position as part of the Israeli government, it would raise the specter of dual loyalty. But I have promised to keep an open mind on the issue until my trip to Israel is over and I’ve had an opportunity to talk to all the people here.

Is the UN hostile to Israel?

I do see the UN as hostile. Even the secretary-general, even the previous secretary-general has said it’s a hostile body to Israel. Indeed almost all of the international organizations that grow out of the UN are hostile bodies to Israel. But I’m used to hostile territory and I’m used to fighting hard fights, and that would not in any way be a barrier to taking on some responsibility. I would be honored to be a lawyer for Israelis for Israel in front of international tribunals like the International Criminal Court. But there is a difference between being a lawyer acting in a professional role and acting in a diplomatic role.

In your book A Case for Israel you say that you yourself are quite critical of the settlements and that so long as criticism is “comparative, contextual and fair,” it should be encouraged. But you are quite vocal in your own criticism of organizations like J Street that would seem to adhere to such parameters.

I started out supporting J Street. I said let’s work together, I agree with you on settlements, I agree with your right to criticize the settlements. What began to get me nervous about J Street was two or three things. No. 1, I make the 80% case, where there are shared values. They tend to emphasize the 20% differences. No. 2, they have begun to question some issues relating to Israel’s security. They took positions on sanctions and other positions which for me cross the red line. [J Street chairman Jeremy] Ben-Ami wrote a letter to The New York Times which seemed to agree with some in the administration who said that Israel may be at fault for the deaths of American soldiers. He then disclaimed that point of view.

One of the reasons I’ve been critical of J Street is to try to bring it toward the center. J Street is a big problem. Its leaders are good people, and their positions are mostly positions that I can support. But they’re trying to build an organization. Therefore they’re not having a litmus test. They’re inviting people from the extreme, extreme Left to come in. And that’s a problem with organization building.

There are many within J Street who don’t want to call themselves a pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby, they just want to call themselves a pro-peace lobby. Those people aren’t pro-peace by the way, they’re anti-Israel. There are too many people that J Street is willing to accept who are strident opponents of Israel.

When I see who came to some of their conferences, and I see who has praised J Street, I get very nervous. I’d like to work with J Street. I’d like to see it move toward the mainstream, I’d like to see it speak with one voice with AIPAC on issues of security, while disagreeing on issues of settlements.”

Jewish values are about open debate, but hasn’t Israeli and Jewish society become more radicalized with the debate being shut down and each group becoming more and more entrenched in its own positions?

There is a great deal of debate. What has happened, unfortunately, is the most vocal voices are the extremes. The most vocal are Jews on the Right who won’t give up one bit of land, and extremists on the Left who don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democracy. And the center is silent, which is why at Tel Aviv University I was shaking my finger at the centrist professors. The radical Left opposes my ideas, but my speech wasn’t directed at the radical Left, it was directed to the center. The main thrust of my speech was the marketplace of ideas requires everyone to participate. You at the center who support Israel but won’t speak up have an obligation to speak up to make the marketplace more diverse.

WHEN IT comes to the issue of universal jurisdiction, Dershowitz takes a tough stance, saying that Israel should go as far as calling the Europeans’ bluff by allowing officers to go on trial.

“What Israel should do is create some test cases,” he says. “I would love to see a test case with [former OC Air Force] Eliezer Shkedi. General Shkedi probably more than any person in the history of air forces in the world has made it a passion to reduce civilian casualties and, as was reported in the press, managed to reduce them from 1:1 to 1:29, one civilian for every 29 terrorists killed. Compare that to American policy where an American military spokesman said on a 60 Minutes program exactly the opposite. If it takes killing 30 civilians to kill one terrorist, America will do that; you need permission of the president to kill more than 30.

“So you have a complete dichotomy. Americans can walk freely in London, but General Shkedi, who now heads El Al, cannot. I would love to see him make a test case, either by going in to London with me at his side or by bringing a declaratory judgment lawsuit challenging the way in which universal jurisdiction is applied. I think the way universal jurisdiction is applied in London violates European law, violates British law and is clearly in violation of due process. Without a single hearing or opportunity to present the other side, a person can be arrested based upon the ex-parte claim of an extremist.”

What does Shkedi have to say about the idea? “He listened,” says Dershowitz. “I made my point publicly in a speech to El Al pilots that he asked me to make and he smiled.”

You have said that the British government should be put on trial, but isn’t the issue of arrest warrants against Israelis one of abuse of the legal system?

You can’t abuse the system unless you allow the system to abuse it. The American legal system wouldn’t allow that. The British legal system is flawed. It permits the arrest of the good and decent human rights activists who are on the wrong side of the extremists without any due process. So it is the legal system that should be put on trial. Not only that, I meant it more broadly. I would like to see a case in which Israel’s rules of engagement and concern for civilians are compared favorably to Britain’s. Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan has been playing by the American rules of engagement. Those have been far, far worse for human rights and the concerns of civilians than are the Israeli rules of engagement. So it’s two aspects of British policy that I’d like to see put on trial.

If Israel was indeed behind the killing of the Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, did it have the right to do so?

Without a doubt. If America has the right to target Osama bin Laden, or terrorists, of course Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorism. The question is: Did Dubai have the right to allow the terrorist to come in on his own passport openly and try to hide in another country? As far as the passports are concerned, I won’t even dignify that stupid argument with a response. Talk about hypocrisy. Britain invented misuse of passports. There’s a whole unit of MI6 that specializes in fraudulent passports, and for them to suddenly sit on high dudgeon and complain about Israel’s alleged use of passports is nothing but hypocrisy.

STILL ON the subject of international law, Dershowitz states that Israel would be well within its rights to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, given that country’s constant threats to annihilate Israel.

“Article 51 of the UN Charter has been interpreted to permit preemptive self-defense, and there’s a debate about preventive self-defense. This would be an example about preventive rather than preemptive self-defense. The people who drafted that said that preventive self-defense in the nuclear age is permissible as long as certain conditions are met. If you first try to go to the Security Council and try, then multilaterally and then bilaterally, but as a last resort. Every sovereign nation has the right to take steps to prevent the threatened annihilation of its population.

“Remember we have a country that has already threatened to annihilate the country of Israel and has already engaged in casus belli against the Jewish state by its attacks in Argentina. So all the elements are in place for Israel’s right for self-defense. Should Israel exercise that right? That to me is a military decision which is way above my pay grade to make. I don’t really know enough to know. I hope Israel doesn’t have to make that decision. I hope America keeps its promise when it says it will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state.”

Will Obama keep that promise?

I have my doubts, and Elie Wiesel taught me what he was taught in the Holocaust, that you should believe the threats of your enemies more than the promises of your friends. So Israel has to take whatever steps it feels are necessary to protect its citizens from a nuclear threat.

Is there a linkage between the peace process and taking steps on Iran?

Not at the moment. My own belief is that if the US took steps to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weaponized country, it would make the peace process a lot easier and it would facilitate peace. I think it would be a terrific step toward peace if the United States kept its promise on Iran.

WHILE HE is unsure how the Obama administration will progress with the Iranian issue, Dershowitz has no doubt about its position on settlements. The only debate that exists within the administration regarding its Middle East policy, he contends, is whether Iran should have priority over the Israeli-Palestinian front.

“I think the American administration is totally and categorically against building civilian settlements on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. I don’t think there’s any ambiguity about that,” says Dershowitz. “I think where the debate is going on with the administration now is whether solving the Israel-Palestine conflict is a major security concern of the US, affecting the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or whether the major concern in the Middle East is Iran, and whether there is linkage between Iran and the Israel-Palestine dispute. That’s the great debate going on in the administration. There is no debate about settlements at all within the administration. The administration is categorically, unequivocally opposed to civilian settlements on the West Bank.”

If all else fails, will the Obama administration try to impose some sort of resolution?

Yes, if all else fails I think the US will try and impose some resolution. I think as long as they limit themselves to a resolution that focuses on the settlements, they’ll be widely supported not only by American supporters of Israel but by many Israelis. If it begins to dictate to Israel on the issue of security, the Obama administration will find a lot of push back from supporters of Israel in the US and from the Israeli government, and appropriately so.

Is it your view that the settlement enterprise is a mistake and that Israel should be moving toward a resolution that essentially takes us back to the pre-1967 lines?

I’m opposed to the pre-’67 lines. I played a tiny little role in drafting [UN Security Council Resolution] 242. I was with Arthur Goldberg as one of his advisers when he was at the UN. I completely support 242, which calls for territorial adjustments, so no, not the pre-’67 lines. But I think all the decisions should have been based on security. So in ’73 I came out against Elon Moreh, the first religious settlement, but in favor of maintaining (a) a military occupation until peace was achieved, and (b) security changes in the borders. So no, I would not go back to ’67.

Unfortunately the realities of Ma’aleh Adumim and other places have required new changes that don’t reflect security, but reflect the realities on the ground. Those I think should result in land swaps. I would take the position that security changes do not require land swaps, but settlement changes do require land swaps.

Then I would make a special claim for the Old City of Jerusalem, which was illegally captured by Jordan, and Israel simply regained illegally captured areas. I think you can make the same case for the Etzion bloc. One has to look case by case at particular areas, but under no circumstances should Israel give up sovereignty over the Kotel, over the Jewish Quarter. So I am completely opposed to returning to the ’67 lines, but I’m also opposed to maintaining civilian settlements on the West Bank.

So tough love is what Israel needs as regards the settlements?

Yes, I think some tough love on the settlements is not a bad thing, as long as there’s tough love in relation to the Palestinians as well. You can’t do it unilaterally. You have to keep the pressure on the Palestinians to stop naming squares after terrorists, to stop teaching incitement in schools, to stop trying to get the Goldstone report brought to the Security Council, to stop trying to keep Israel out of various economic organizations... those provocations have to stop too. If the US is truly going to be even-handed it has to show tough love on both sides.

Whose fault is it that we have not achieved peace?

The prophet says, “Peace, peace. But there is no peace.” In some ways Israel has achieved a peace. There are fewer rockets being sent into Sderot, there are no rockets to speak of from the North, there has been very little terrorism from the West Bank. It’s a kind of peace. I hope for a better and more enduring peace. Peace is not an endgame; we will never be completely at peace. Hamas will never accept Israel, Iran will never accept Israel.

I would say the major fault over the last decade for peace not being achieved is Iran. Iran has done everything in its power to prevent peace from coming to the Middle East. When Israel left Gaza, there could have been peace. It left behind agricultural implements that could have been [used for] farming. Gaza could have become Singapore, but Iran didn’t want it to. Iran doesn’t want Lebanon to become a place which has peaceful relations with Israel. So Iran is the central villain in the Middle East situation.

Beyond that I think both parties share some responsibilities. I think Israel’s made mistakes over the years with settlement policies starting with Labor governments, but it’s not the major barrier to peace. It’s a barrier but not the major barrier.

What’s your sense of the Palestinian Authority? What’s your sense of its readiness for peace?

I think it’s clearly in the interest of the Palestinian Authority to have peace. Its economic situation has improved dramatically. It could really get a tremendous peace dividend from Israel’s high technology and economic growth. I think the Israeli government now sees the West Bank and Gaza like the West saw East Germany or East Berlin and West Berlin. Remember who brought the wall down. People say it was the pope, people said [Mikhail] Gorbachev, people say it was [Ronald] Reagan. It wasn’t; essentially it was the people of East Germany. They said no, we want to be more like West Germany, and I’m hoping that the people on the West Bank will see that their interests are not to be another Gaza and that the people in Gaza eventually will say, “Look at the West Bank, they’re thriving, their kids have a future and our kids don’t. Maybe we can become more like the Palestinians on the West Bank. Maybe they can then change Hamas or even abandon Hamas....”

AFTER A MEETING with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Dershowitz is convinced that he is the best partner Israel has ever had.

“He genuinely would like to bring peace and a two-state solution, based on his conception of what a two-state solution would look like – which is different from Israel’s conception in areas that relate to security and other areas. Whether he can deliver the Palestinians in this goal, and whether he can influence Hamas, is far more doubtful.

“He would probably himself favor direct negotiations, but he suggested that’s not his decision. He thinks there’ll be a movement toward direct negotiations.

“He sounded more like an Israeli leader than any Palestinian leader I’ve seen in the public light. He sounded like a pragmatist.”

If you’re so encouraged by Fayyad, does that optimism extend to PA President Mahmoud Abbas?

I don’t think you can generalize from him to others. It’s not clear to me that Fayyad 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, even though he’s not a [Fatah] party man, that he’s an expert in ground-up building....

He was very well prepared. He seemed to know more about me than I knew about him. We spoke for an hour and a half.


Did you ask him about incitement against Israel in the PA?

Yes. He condemned incitement and seemed to agree it should be stopped. I don’t think he’d object to US pressure to stop incitement – inciteful talk and teaching.

And what of his campaign to boycott settlement goods?

I think he has a very good point in using nonviolent means to show [his opposition to the settlements]. Morally, it’s a very strong argument. The settlements provide employment [for many Palestinians], so it may be self-defeating.... But I’d rather be arguing with someone pushing an economic boycott of the settlements than espousing terrorism.

And what was his response to your questions about Goldstone? 

I said, “You know he’s wrong.” He didn’t respond. He didn’t say that Goldstone was right. My sense is that he needs a little street credibility. Similarly, he didn’t seem too unhappy about losing the fight over the OECD. That’s yesterday’s news, he said.

You sound very forgiving. 

I’m so used to hearing from Palestinian leaders who give me nothing to hold onto. Maybe I’m too optimistic. I’m prepared to err on that side. I’m not saying Israel should err on that side. I’m prepared to be optimistic. I may be a disappointed suitor. But I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

He seems reasonable. I didn’t hear a single argument that seemed unreasonable.

The same goes for my recent meetings with Israeli leaders.

This was not the case in the time of Arafat.

These are reasonable people [on both sides] disagreeing over reasonable issues. Reason and civil disobedience [on the Palestinian side] compared to unreason and terror.

Did you get into other final status issues – refugees, Jerusalem?

I don’t think as a pragmatist he would make the same fatal mistake that [Yasser] Arafat did and give up on peace over a fake right of return.

On security, he argued against IDF troops periodically entering Ramallah and in favor of bolstering the internal PA security forces. He makes a persuasive case. These aren’t areas I’m expert in.

And another argument in his favor is that Ramallah is a beautiful, thriving, successful city. A self-governing city that could be in a Palestinian state.

In summary, Fayyad is a man who would take viable terms for peace with Israel? 

Reasonable terms. Very different from the reasonable terms Israel can offer. Whether that gulf can be bridged is a hard question. But we’re in the realm of reasonable disagreement, and that’s a big step forward.

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