Dershowitz on the deal
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Dershowitz on the deal

Noted lawyer talks to the Jewish Standard about his objections to Iran pact

Retired law professor Alan Dershowitz discusses his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House.
Retired law professor Alan Dershowitz discusses his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House.

Alan Dershowitz is not exactly a slow worker.

At 76, retired from Harvard Law School, he has lost none of the passion that has propelled him to take public positions on contentious issues (or, for that matter, to pay for them by taking on unappealing if not actively unsavory clients, clear in the understanding that everyone is entitled to legal representation).

He always has been an advocate for Israel; although he is a liberal, his positions fall where his logic takes them, and that means he is not doctrinaire.

That’s why it’s not surprising that his new book, “The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?” came out two weeks after the deal was made, in late July.

(Of course, so far it’s just online, available as a Kindle edition, although there are plans to publish a hard copy in paperback. It does take less time to upload a book than it does to design, print, bind, and distribute it.)

Now, Mr. Dershowitz is promoting the book, as he did in an interview with the Jewish Standard.

“The day that the deal was struck, that night, I was tossing and turning in my bed,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “I said to myself that I had been thinking about this issue for 10 years, and writing about it — so why not do a quick ebook? I already had done that last year, about Gaza.” (That was “Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas.”)

“I emailed my publisher, and he said yes — if I could get it out in two weeks.

“I got it out in 11 days — I just didn’t go to the beach much. On the 13th day it already was up on Kindle, and the next day it was number 1 on international best-seller lists.”

Why go to the trouble of printing it in paperback? “I want to submit it to every member of Congress, and to every staffer,” he said. “The goal is to have an impact on the debate.”

Mr. Dershowitz is against the proposed deal, but he would like to encourage others to consider it rather than blindly taking his position. The issue is not as complicated as we are led to believe, he said; there are many details, but the deal itself “is easily graspable. The issue is not in the details. It is whether or not this deal permanently prevents Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, or whether it postpones it for 10 or 12 or 15 years. Is it prevention or containment?

“Is it a green light for Iran or is it a red light?”

Most people do not know enough about the deal to know what they believe, he said — and he believes that there is a cure for that.

“I challenge the administration, and Fox, and NPR, and CNN, to conduct a series of great debates about the bill,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “I challenge the administration to debate me. I will come, with someone else — maybe someone like Chuck Schumer.” (That is Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, who is Jewish and a party leader, and came out against the deal late last week, after much study and agonizing.)

“There should be great debates on television, in the tradition of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. It should be a real debate. Let’s do it! Let’s see what the American public thinks, after learning both sides of the issue.”

(Mr. Dershowitz was talking about the series of seven debates that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, respectively the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Senate from Illinois, held in 1858. The subject was slavery; the debates, we are told by historians, were riveting.)

Mr. Dershowitz said that President Barack Obama has been inconsistent about whether the deal will prevent Iran from ever getting nuclear weapons (insofar, of course, that any deal could ever control the distant future). “In my book, I suggest that Congress pass a bill in which we say that Iran will never get nuclear weapons — and then we see whether the president signs it.

“The preliminary part of the deal says that Iran affirms that it will never under any circumstances seek to obtain or develop nuclear weapons,” he continued. “I want a law passed saying that that is binding.

“The law would say that we authorize the president to use military force if Iran breaks that, so it puts teeth behind the proposition. So if the president supports that law, fine. If he opposes it, he would have to say why he opposes it. It would be a very good test to find out what the deal really means.”

Mr. Dershowitz was able to put the book together so quickly, he said, because “I knew what the outlines of the deal were going to be. I wrote about the preliminary deal extensively. But the deal was much worse than I thought it would be.”

The change to the deal that he found not only the hardest to accept but also the most purely shocking was that it allowed 24 days between demand and inspection.

“I am a criminal lawyer, and I am used to dealing with criminals,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “I know how the criminal mind works.

“If you want 24 days before an inspection, that’s because you want to hide something. There is no need for 24 days unless you are determined to hide something. It is for cheating.

“If I am innocent, I say, ‘Search me right now!’ I don’t want to wait for 24 days, because you might think that I hid something.

“Iran says it wants the 24 days because it’s about sovereignty. It’s about their sovereign rights. It’s just words. Ask the administration why they gave them 24 days.

“The president originally said that the red line for him was 24/7 immediate inspection.”

If just those two changes were made to the deal, he could support it, Mr. Dershowitz said. Those two changes would be a commitment that Iran would never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, and that there could be a 24/7 immediate inspection.

Opposition to the deal is not breaking down along conservative/liberal lines, he continued. “I wish that it was not as divided along party lines as it initially started out to be, but I think that we ought to stop calling each other names and questioning each other’s motives.”

And even the party line divisions are beginning to melt, he said. “Senator [Robert] Menendez and Senator Schumer are Democrats, and so is Congressman Alcee Hastings from Florida. They’re all liberals. Lots of liberals have questions about this deal. Tom Friedman, Dennis Ross.”

He is opposed to the deal as an American, Mr. Dershowitz said. “I am fighting for the right for Americans to be safe. I care deeply about Israel — but I am opposed to this deal as a liberal Democrat American patriot who voted for Obama twice.”

When it comes to Israel, “What appalls me most is Obama objecting to Netanyahu trying to affect the outcome of the deal,” Mr. Dershowitz said. Talking about how Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied American politicians, “President Obama ignorantly said on Sunday that no foreign leader has ever done that before.

“Does he forget that Lafayette tried to influence us? That Winston Churchill tried to influence us? That Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia has pushed us hard? That the president himself sent David Cameron, the former British prime minister, to try to influence Congress?

“So when the president makes a historically inaccurate statement like that, it feeds into the trope that only Israel tries to influence American foreign policy. That is false, and the president should not do that.

“Can you imagine if Netanyahu hadn’t tried to help his own country,” Mr. Dershowitz asked, indignantly rhetorical. “That is his job. That is what he was elected to do.

“I had a private meeting with President Obama at the Oval Office, and I said, ‘Mr. President, would you ever outsource the safety of America?’ He said, ‘Of course not!’ I said, ‘So could you expect the prime minister of Israel to do that?’ And he said, ‘Of course not. Israel has to do what it has to do.’”

Alan Dershowitz very much hopes that legislators, in doing what they have to do, vote to reject the deal with Iran.

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