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Dershowitz's Question to Carter:

Via YouTube, here is a video of Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis asking the question to Jimmy Carter that he would have asked in person, had Carter agreed to a debate, and it's a good one: did Carter, who had become a confidant of Yasser Arafat during the 1990s, advise Arafat to reject Israel's offer at Camp David in 2000, an offer that, although Dershowitz doesn't mention this, Arafat's own Palestinian advisors thought he should accept?

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Dershowitz's Question to Carter:
  2. Stein on Carter:
Justin (mail):
It's not a good question unless you see Carter more of a caricature than a person, an answer other than "no" would be shocking to most rational people.
1.28.2007 10:55pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Dershowitz is a good lawyer, and a good lawyer rarely asks a question unless he's pretty sure of an answer.
1.28.2007 11:24pm
SP:
I can see Carter's @#$%-eating grin as he proceeded to lie.
1.28.2007 11:33pm
jvarisco (www):
"Arafat's own Palestinian advisors thought he should accept?"

If you accept outlandish claims like that, then it sounds reasonable. But that's a pretty big if.
1.29.2007 1:01am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
"Arafat's own Palestinian advisors thought he should accept?"

If you accept outlandish claims like that, then it sounds reasonable. But that's a pretty big if.

I'm not at Palestinian, have never met Arafat, but if I were and had, and were advised that Jimmy Carter had counseled a course of action, would have said it shoudl have been rejected before I knew just what it was. Flee, flee at once to the nearest desert island...
1.29.2007 1:22am
davod (mail):
Justin and Dave:

I recall seeing on TV at the time Clinton advisors, who were present during the meetings, stating that Arafat went against his own advisors when he walked away.

Then again, we know we cannot trust anything the Clintons (both of them) advisors say or do.
1.29.2007 5:31am
volokh watcher (mail):

Then again, we know we cannot trust anything the Clintons (both of them) advisors say or do.


True, true, true. And be it remembered that you can take what Bush and Cheney and Rice and Rumsfeld, when SecDef, have said to the bank.
1.29.2007 6:57am
John M (mail):
Come on, Professor. A good lawyer never asks a question if he doesn't know the answer if he's in trial, but Dershowitz wasn't in front of a jury. He was giving a speech, having a debate with an opponent who wasn't present to respond. The rule of thumb is an oversimplification of the practice of law in any event. In many contexts, such as during a discovery deposition, attorneys do ask questions to which they do not know the answer.

I think Dershowitz's question is of the sort that one doesn't ask if the person impugned is going to have the chance to answer. Are you suggesting that Dershowitz has some smoking gun, that somehow nearly a decade has passed and Dershowitz has somehow discovered, despite no prior reporting of such a fact, that Jimmy Carter advised Arafat to reject the proposal? Absent some smoking gun, such a question, if actually asked, would have led to an indignant denial and would have given Carter an advantage in an actual debate by looking more reasonable than his unhinged opponent.

As one of the earlier commenters noted, this would be a good question only if one's world view allows for the possibility that Jimmy Carter is more radical than Yasir Arafat on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and the belief that Dershowitz has some evidence with which to respond to Carter inevitable "why, I never!"
1.29.2007 10:36am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Dershowitz is a good lawyer, and a good lawyer rarely asks a question unless he's pretty sure of an answer.


In a court of law, maybe. In the court of public opinion, the right inflammatory "question" can do immense damage regardless of what the answer is. E.g. the reporter who asks "have you stopped beating your wife Senator?" or "why are you so hostile to the organized Jewish community?"
1.29.2007 10:40am
josh:
Kudos to Prog B for at least allowing comments on this Israel-oriented post.

Has anyone ever seen a map of the territory Arafat was offered at Camp David? A couple of versions are on this site: http://www.mideastweb.org/campdavid2.htm (linking to several different maps of the proposed territory, prepared by both Israelis and Palestinians who attended Camp David, perhaps avoiding th ad hominem attacks that arise in these discussions).

The proposal Arafat rejected looks like a pepperoni pizza -- a mass of proposed Palestinian land dotted with tens of permanent Israelie settlements. Yes, the Palestinian land constituted over 90 % of the total, but who would honestly accept in such negotiations a country with these ridiculously uncontiguous borders? The notion that Arafat rejected some super-sweet deal from the Israelis is one of the many pure canards in this conflict that is easily dispatched by looking at the proposed maps themselves.

No, Arafat's decision to reject this proposal wasn't the real error. If there is culpability on his part (I think there is, just not as these revisionist tales tell it), it was his decision to walk away from the table after this proposal was made -- his decision not to use this proposal as a starting point in negotiations. Perhaps Carter was involved with that. If he did, his counsel was purely rational.
1.29.2007 11:10am
DavidBernstein (mail):
The site you linked to points out that the Pal version is incorrect, and the other map is not the actual proposal. Here is a map from the same site showing the actual proposal versus the Pal's claim: http://www.mideastweb.org/lastmaps.htm
In any event, I haven't seen any serious rebuttal to the charge that negotiations ultimately floundered over Arafat's refusal to give up the right of return, not over map details. Surely, if Arafat would have simply gotten up and demanded two or five percent more territory to end the conflict for good, world opinion would have forced Israel to relent.
1.29.2007 11:31am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Well, Carter can make Dersh look like something of a dolt just be publicly answering "no."
1.29.2007 11:31am
Matt Caplan (mail):
Prof. Bernstein -

Where can I find verification for the proposition that "Arafat's own Palestinian advisors thought he should accept"?
1.29.2007 11:52am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Well, Carter can make Dersh look like something of a dolt just be publicly answering "no."


Or he can accomplish the same thing by ignoring Dershowitz and letting him play the role of the crank on YouTube accusing a former president of trying to sabotage a peace negotiation.
1.29.2007 12:04pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):

Or he can accomplish the same thing by ignoring Dershowitz and letting him play the role of the crank on YouTube accusing a former president of trying to sabotage a peace negotiation.

Except, in this case, the charge is plausible given Carter's history.
1.29.2007 12:55pm
Justin (mail):
"Except, in this case, the charge is plausible given Carter's history"

Of...opposing Middle East peace deals? Really?

"Well, Carter can make Dersh look like something of a dolt just be publicly answering "no.""

Carter doesn't have to do anything to make Derschowitz look like a dolt, as Derschowitz is pretty good on doing that all on his own. But anyway, "no" isn't enough, right. "I don't believe you! Prove it" or "But then why do you now bla bla bla." The question isn't looking for an honest answer, but to trap Carter into having to prove the unprovable, or having to deal with some sort of superficial inconsistency, the hobgoblin of Mr. Derschowitz's small mind.
1.29.2007 1:04pm
josh:
"Here is a map from the same site showing the actual proposal versus the Pal's claim: http://www.mideastweb.org/lastmaps.htm " That's why I linked to the site with various versions. I don't claim to believe Arafat's "canton" version, but also doubt Ross' version (or at least the one on the link) because it doesn't even mention Israel's demand that it retain "security control" over the various Jewish settlements in Jericho, Hebron, etc. The pepperoni pizza picture I was addressing in my initial comment was not Arafat's "three canton" map in your link, but the retention by Israel of the dotted "security zones" throughout the territory. I find Ross very credibly generally, but clearly, others who were there don't share his view of the definitive nature of the Israeli proposal. (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14380)

As I said, I find Arafat's failures at Camp David to have contributed to the lack of a deal. But to say there weren't flaws in the Israeli's ambiguous proposal doesn't quite jibe with the facts either.
1.29.2007 1:42pm
jvarisco (www):
"In any event, I haven't seen any serious rebuttal to the charge that negotiations ultimately floundered over Arafat's refusal to give up the right of return, not over map details."

As opposed to Israel giving up the right to Jerusalem? If you are going to assign blame, you might want to at least try for objectivity.

I don't see why everyone is so opposed to Carter. He is the one man who can say that he actually brokered a peace accord involving Israel that still holds. He had to twist Begin's arm to do it, but Israel is just as secure now as when they signed it. Perhaps if Clinton had done the same, rather than simply supporting the Israeli position, we would have a deal in place now.
1.29.2007 2:30pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The best drama would be that Dershowitz is waiting for Carter's "NO" before dropping the other shoe.
1.29.2007 4:37pm
The Organized Jewish Community:
I just don't see how relying on figures as credible as Ken Stein and Alan Dershowitz could possibly lead anyone in the wrong direction.
1.29.2007 6:13pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Everyone seems to have missed the point of Dershowitz's question. One of the main themes of Carter's book is that the Camp David offer was inadequate in all sorts of ways, and that it was entirely understandable for Arafat to have rejected it. The problems with this position are that (1) the Camp David offer was, all things considered, a pretty good one for the Palestinians--especially when compared with the misery that followed its rejection--and (2) the rejection implied a return to Arafat's previous tactic of terrorism. (The premise of the Oslo Accord, leading to the Camp David summit, was that in return for Israeli concessions, the Palestinians would end hostilities against Israel--of which terrorism has long been the only significant kind.)

Dershowitz's question neatly highlights these problems--regardless of Carter's answer. If Carter were to answer, "yes", then he'd implicitly be endorsing the subsequent Palestinian terror campaign. (The famously controversial "page 213" in Carter's book makes this same implicit endorsement, although Carter denies that that's actually what he meant.)

But even if Carter were to answer, "no", then he'd find himself in the awkward position of defending a book which places the blame for the lack of peace in the Middle East overwhelmingly on Israel, while at the same time disagreeing with the refusal of one of Israel's major enemies to accept an Israeli offer of peace. Dershowitz has thus exposed the fundamental unfairness of Carter's position: if the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer of peace at Camp David that they should have accepted, then how can Israel now be blamed for the current continued hostilities?
1.29.2007 8:16pm
Tony D'Amato (www):
At Camp David, the U.S., Israel, and Arafat's advisers were all interested in redrawing the map of Palestine. Every commentator on this blog so far has also focused on the merits or demerits of the proposed land settlement. What no one seems to know or remember is that Arafat was the only one in the group who was promoting the rights of the Palestinian refugees--those who were kicked out of the entire country and have been living in squalor for over six decades in refugee camps in neighboring countries. Everyone except Arafat was willing to broker the refugees out of the deal. I am not saying that Arafat's motives were pure; he was in it for himself just like all the others. But the real "canard" of the Came David situation that Dershowitz won't ever mention is that the Camp David deal was being constructed by the US and Israel on the backs of the refugees.
1.30.2007 12:25am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Everyone except Arafat was willing to broker the refugees out of the deal.

Nonsense. Providing compensation and aid to the refugees wasn't even a bone of contention. What "everyone except Arafat" was willing to let go of is the ridiculous idea that a huge population that in the vast majority of cases has been born and raised (and in most cases, whose parents were born and raised) in Gaza or the West Bank or Lebanon or Jordan or elsewhere has some kind of historical right to displace a population that has been living as a sovereign nation for several generations. No other refugee population in the world--including the millions of refugees who eventually resettled in Israel--would ever even be considered entitled to that kind of racist irredentism.
1.30.2007 10:06am
Justin (mail):
That's not fair at all, Dan. The question as posed as whether Carter thought it was an absolute good thing for Arafat to reject the peace plan, not whether it was in Palestine's best interests to reject it - by conflating the two, you're simply disingenuously avoiding the hard questions that Carter's book raises. You may disagree with his answers (I'm skeptical myself), but that's not the correct answer.
2.2.2007 5:51pm