Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz criticized a piece of legislation offered by a Democrat that would declare the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem “occupied territory,” which he says is highly detrimental to Israel.
In a column for The Gatestone Institute, Dershowitz began by praising Congress for “overwhelmingly” beating back a measure offered up “by eight radical Democrats and one Republican” to strip funding from Israel’s highly effective Iron Dome missile defense system, but went on to note that a number of “‘mainstream’ Democrats” have since proposed a bill “that is equally dangerous and filled with half-truths, omissions and outright fabrications.”
The law professor cited a bill introduced by Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), which he said furthers the so-called “two-state solution” as a means of finally resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And while Dershowitz said he favors that idea, the bill, he believes, is “ill-conceived, because it would destroy any prospect for peace, would reward and encourage terrorism and disincentivize Palestinian leaders from negotiating with Israel.”
“The bill declares that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip are occupied territories and must be referred to as such by all American statements. It implies that the occupation is illegal and entirely the fault of Israel,” Dershowitz wrote.
“First and foremost, it is a categorical lie to say that Gaza is occupied. There is not a single Israeli soldier, policeman, settler or citizen in Gaza. The occupation ended in 2005,” he said, noting further that the region once had the potential to become “Singapore on the Mediterranean” complete with a functioning democracy and flourishing economy.
However, the region became dominated by the militant group Hamas, which “overthrew the legitimate government” using “force and assassination.” In essence, Dershowitz noted, Hamas now ‘occupies’ Gaza, not Israel. He added that only after the territory was used by Hamas to attack the Jewish state did Israel impose “restrictions designed to protect its civilians.”
That’s not an “occupation,” the law professor wrote.
“It is legitimate and entirely lawful self-defense. It would be a lie — a blood libel — for the United States to declare Gaza to be occupied territory,” he said.
Dershowitz pointed out that under international law, Israel would be right to actually occupy Gaza since the territory is used for “belligerence.” But, “had Israeli troops remained, Israel would be criticized. Now that they have left, there is still criticism. For some, Israel can do no right.”
The city of Jerusalem, however, is “more complicated,” the law prof admitted.
“The Old City’s Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall had been illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, and excluded Jews. When Jordan attacked Israel in June 1967, Israel liberated these ancient Jewish sites and opened them up to all. These are not occupied territories. Nor is the rest of East Jerusalem, which is part of a united city,” he wrote.
The West Bank also poses its own challenges and difficulties, Dershowitz said.
For example, “the Etzion Bloc, Maale Adumim, Gilo — are disputed but will remain part of Israel even under a two state solution, as Palestinian leaders have acknowledged,” he wrote, adding that those regions are currently not under occupation. Further, Dershowitz noted that twice before Israel offered to end all presence in 90 percent of the West Bank in exchange for permanent peace with the Palestinians, but both times the offer was turned down.
“The Palestinian leadership refused these offers and are thus responsible for the current situation,” said Dershowitz.
“The bill proposed by Levin and his fellow Democrats encourages the refusal of Palestinian leaders to negotiate painful compromises that are essential to achieving peace. It also rewards the pay-to-slay and terrorist policies that are the primary barriers to peace,” he wrote, adding that under the legislation, Palestinians would get the benefit of the U.S. pressuring Israel into a deal without having “to negotiate, compromise or give up terrorism.”
Dershowitz believes a better solution is one that requires the Palestinians to negotiate compromises in good faith “and engage in genuine and honest discussions leading toward a peaceful two-state solution that assured security for Israel and autonomy for the West Bank Palestinians.”
“The one way to assure that the Palestinians will persist in their refusal to negotiate would be to enact the misguided Levin bill into law,” he added.
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