On Middle East Peace, the White House Turns to... Alan Dershowitz
President Trump isn’t the first Oval Office denizen to ask for the celebrity lawyer’s thoughts on Israel.
Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer famous in the Trump era for criticizing the president’s legal antagonists on Fox News, has consulted with senior White House officials on efforts to negotiate a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, The Daily Beast has learned.
“I’ve consulted with them about it,” Dershowitz told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. He said he has discussed the issue with Jared Kushner, special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Ambassador David Friedman, and President Trump himself.
While not a career diplomat, Dershowitz has written multiple books about Israel, and is working on a forthcoming one to be titled Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship with My Most Challenging Client. He said he also discussed the Israeli/Palestinian peace process with members of the Obama administration. And over his years in public life, he’s built relationships with a number of powerful Israeli politicians.
Dershowitz said he has discussed relations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority with the president’s team. And he said he spoke with White House advisers before they rolled out some of their biggest decisions on the issue, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
“I compared the Golan Heights to a captured battleship,” he said. “I said, ‘You don’t give back a battleship you’ve captured in a defensive war.”
He added that if the Syrian regime controlled the Golan Heights, “they’d send barrel bombs with poisoned gas” down onto Israeli targets, “as they did to their own civilians.”
He said he and Kushner have also discussed the long-promised Israeli/Palestinian peace plan.
“We’ve had general conversations,” he said. “It changes all the time. I’m not privy to the specifics, the current specifics, but mostly it’s been one-way conversations—that is, they ask for my advice. They don’t tell me their secrets. They just ask me for my advice, and I give it to them.”
He said he also spoke with members of the Obama administration about the Israeli/Palestinian peace process.
“The president invited me to the Oval Office,” he said. “I was invited to speak to his national security team. In the end, they didn’t listen.”
“They listened to me very politely,” he added, of the Obama administration, “but they didn’t always agree. I’m sure that this administration won’t agree with everything I support either.”
Dershowitz said he was brought in at very start of the Trump administration, and that their talks have been episodic.
A source close to the president confirmed that, saying Trump encouraged senior officials—including Kushner—to keep Dershowitz in the loop on these matters from the first days of his presidency. The president has also stressed to those close to him that Dershowitz could be helpful because of his friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This Administration’s belief is that our peace efforts aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict benefit from the input and feedback from numerous experts, groups, and communities,” a Trump administration official told The Daily Beast on Tuesday, without weighing in on Dershowitz specifically. “We have met with Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, and a host of other interested parties and partners from a variety of backgrounds.”
Dershowitz, a Democrat who donated to Hillary Clinton, has received plaudits over the years from some conservatives for his staunch support for Israel. “Why does the media continue encouraging Hamas violence?” he asked last year in an opinion piece for The Hill.
The year before that, he published another piece defending the president, writing about “why Trump is right in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.”
Dershowitz has claimed that his defenses of Trump, particularly regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, have made him a social pariah among the liberal, elite crowd on Martha’s Vineyard. The New York Times published multiple articles chronicling what Dershowitz called “McCarthyism com[ing] to Martha’s Vineyard.”
His impassioned defenses have, however, helped him cultivate a powerful friend. Since 2017, Trump has favorably tweeted about Dershowitz almost a dozen times. “A must watch: Legal Scholar Alan Dershowitz was just on @foxandfriends talking of what is going on with respect to the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. political history. Enjoy!” the president posted in December 2017.