‘Time for a real debate’

Alan Dershowitz builds a case against the US administration’s deal with Iran while proposing a way out for both sides.

Alan Dershowitz (photo credit: REUTERS)
Alan Dershowitz
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 ‘I would be happy to be one of the debaters against the deal….
Let Wendy Sherman or the secretary of energy debate for the deal on behalf of Obama and [I will sit on the other side with] US Sen.
Chuck Schumer and we would debate against the deal.”
Alan Dershowitz, speaking in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post, recalling perhaps his more famous cases in which he cleaned the floor with his rhetorical opponents, would like to find himself in a courtroom with the Obama administration.
The case: Iran. The verdict: Negligence.
The Iran deal signed in mid-July by representatives of the US and other Western powers with Iran has become one of the most contentious debates in Washington in recent years. It not only pits the president against the Republicans but has also caused internal dissension within the Democratic ranks. Support for Israel has traditionally been a bipartisan issue in the US, but the Iran deal has opened cleavages, and debates within the US Jewish community have become strained.
Into this fray comes famed US jurist and professor Dershowitz. Over the last two decades he has become a prominent supporter of Israel and his “case for” books, of which this is the sixth, are a publishing industry unto themselves.
He argues that “the greatest danger the world faces in the 21st century is an Iranian nuclear arsenal.” However, since there is a major likelihood that Iran will develop nuclear weapons regardless of what the US or Israel do, “this nuclear deal may be the most important – and dangerous – policy decision of the 21st century,” he writes. He asserts that Iran not only threatens Israel, but its ICBMs might be capable of reaching the US.
But how can a book just published take into account the ever-changing nature of this rapidly developing debate? “The nice thing about it being [available in] e-book [format] is that I can change the e-book if there are changes,” he claims.
But most importantly he wants to spur a conversation about having a real debate rather than the “name-calling” he says has perverted the discussion.
Dershowitz, who has had close relations with Democratic leaders including President Barack Obama, argues that the US administration is being harsh in its critique of Israel’s opposition to the deal.
“Obama is saying that [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] shouldn’t interfere with US policy, [which is] a terrible thing to say, and he was wrong to say other [leaders] didn’t. Winston Churchill did; [the Marquis de] Lafayette did it; David Cameron was sent by Obama to persuade them [Congress].” He points out that the Saudis interfere in US policy. “Every country has a right to get favorable [policies] to their own people when there is an existential threat.”
In the book he comes out strongly against the failure to achieve a better deal, noting that the critics insist that the deal is “merely a brief delay followed by a green light for Iran to do whatever it wishes….
So, no! President Obama should not be judged on whether this deal is less bad than the alternatives currently ‘on the table.’ He should be judged on whether this is the best deal his administration could have achieved.”
So what was the administration thinking? “I think he [Obama] sees this as his legacy.
He doesn’t want to take military action, but no one was asking him to do so.
He took the military option off the table and allowed Iran to negotiate as equals with the superpowers.”
As the discussions with Iran went on and the administration became increasingly devoted to a deal, they broke their own redlines in reducing the need for 24/7 inspections to waiting 24 days to inspect possible nuclear sites.
“We were playing checkers against people playing chess, and the ayatollah checkmated us and he accepted a bad deal. The Iranians know we wanted it.”
Dershowitz is livid. “I wouldn’t hire Obama or Kerry to negotiate a 30-day lease; they don’t know how to negotiate.
They negotiated from weakness and equality.”
But that failure is water under the bridge now. Dershowitz understands that the language of the deal is done and the question now is what can be done about it.
“The United States of America’s Constitution requires foreign policy be made by Congress,” in instances like this. With less than a month before Congress must sign off or reject it, he notes that under the law a simple majority in Congress can vote to disapprove the deal, but the president can veto the rejection; and two-thirds of both houses of Congress would be required to override the veto.
“I propose legislation regarding the fact that Iran says in the deal that they will never develop nuclear weapons, and let’s have a statute to empower the president” to take action. Under this amendment legislation, the US Congress would enshrine in law that Iran must adhere to what it signed, namely, that it “reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”
Dershowitz is optimistic that Israel will survive no matter what happens, because he hopes those running for president will support Israel on Iran more than this administration.
But he is aghast at the current harsh accusation in the US accusing supporters of Israel of “dual loyalty,” replying: “I’m a patriotic American, and I stood up against the Iraq war, and I have no fear of being accused of dual loyalty.”
What he hopes is that the US Congress, media and public can tone down the ad hominem attacks in the current debate and have a reasoned discussion.
Knowing how US politics works, that isn’t very likely.