Ever since his name was first falsely linked to the notorious Jeffrey Epstein, Professor Alan Dershowitz, one of the most famous criminal lawyers in the world, has been waging a war to save his reputation. “I’m being accused by a woman I never met, and even though I have proof that dismantles her accusations, they are seen as truth,” he says in a special interview to Israel Hayom.
A couple of weeks ago, former Director-General of the Health Ministry Professor Yoram Lass began his weekly radio show with a resounding apology to American legal scholar Alan Dershowitz. In a conversation with a listener on Sept. 10, Lass had said that Dershowitz “raped girls along with Jeffrey Epstein. He actually raped girls. He’s a rapist, and admitted it himself.”
Dershowitz did not hesitate. Within days, he filed a slander lawsuit against Lass and Radio FM103 in the Tel Aviv District Court, seeking 4 million shekels (nearly $1.18 million) in damages. The apology followed the lawsuit.
“These remarks were based on a mistake of mine. I would like to apologize to Professor Dershowitz. I’m very sorry if he was offended,” Lass said.
But for Dershowitz, 82, the apology wasn’t enough. Not when the matter touched on what he calls the fight of his life, to discredit claims by Virginia Roberts Giuffre that she was one of the victims of billionaire sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein and that Epstein trafficked her and ordered her to have sex with his associates, including Dershowitz.
“He made outrageous, lying statements about me. He defamed me, and he kind of apologized, but not enough,” Dershowitz tells Israel Hayom via Zoom from his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, in an interview after Yom Kippur.
“He said I admitted having sex with, raping people. Admitted it! I’ve spent my life disproving it. He’s an ignorant fool, and he’s now apologized, kind of, but that’s not going to change our view. We’re still going forward with the lawsuit. We have to send a message to journalists all over the country, all over the world – they cannot get away with making false, defamatory statements without fact-checking, without calling the person. There has to be accountability.
“I strongly believe in the right of the media, the right of the press, even the right of the press to be wrong, if their mistakes are honest mistakes. But to say what he said about me, without any basis, and then to think that a half-way apology will get him off the hook is not good enough.
“He should not be on the air. He has shown irresponsibility. If the station is to be a responsible station, he should be fired, and then he should have to pay damages. After my legal fees and expenses, I’ll contribute the damages to charities. The charities I’ve identified at the moment are United Hazolah, Aleph – an organization that helps defend Jews in prison all over the world, and anti-BDS.
“I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing this to help my voice defend Israel. I’m doing this on behalf of everybody who’s been falsely accused,” he asserted.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my life in court, defending my reputation and my good name, and mostly defending ’emet,’ defending truth. I will fight back until the day I die, and then my wife will take over, and when she dies, my children will take over, and when they die, my grandchildren will take over. We will fight this until the end, until it is clear and admitted by the lawyers and the woman that she made up the whole story.
“In 55 years, I’ve never seen a case like this. In every other case I’ve had,” he continued. “It’s a gray area. Most of these cases are people who have known the other person, maybe they’ve had sex with them and the question is was it voluntary or involuntary – she worked for him, did he touch her, was it harassment, was a joke over the line? There’s a gray area. In my case, I never met or saw the woman. Period. Nothing.
“The vast majority of women who make claims of rape or sexual assault are telling the truth, of course. Why would they lie? But there have been cases, mine is the most extreme, where the women do it purely for money.”
However, Dershowitz says, his case is rare in that the accusation against him is entirely false, and he has never met Giuffre. Even though he has proof that dismantles her claims, her false accusations are enough for him to be perceived as guilty, he says, noting that there is no longer a presumption of innocence: “If it happened to me, it could happen to any man or women.”
“It’s too easy to falsely accuse. Especially with social media, the accusation becomes the conviction. That’s why I called my book Guilt by Accusation. If you’re accused, you’re guilty. There’s no responding. That’s why we need the courts to respond. We need defamation laws.
The complicated and ongoing sexual crimes case continues to unfold more than a year after Epstein committed suicide in his Manhattan jail cell. Epstein was arrested in 2008 after a lengthy investigation by the Palm Beach police and the FBI, on suspicion of sexual crimes against underage girls, including sex trafficking and trafficking.
Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and one of the foremost experts on criminal law, was part of the defense team that secured a plea bargain under which Epstein served only 13 months in prison. Not only that, but under Florida law, Epstein received permission to continue working for much of his time in prison, so six days a week he would leave prison at 8 a.m. and come back at 8 p.m.
The years after the plea bargain were filled with failed attempts to secure justice by dozens of women who claimed to be victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Most of them were minors from tough backgrounds. After a series of investigative journalism articles, authorities in the US launched legal proceedings against Epstein and in July 2019 he was arrested again. The details of the plea bargain were reexamined, both by the public and legally.
The deal was characterized as a “sweetheart deal,” in which one side is given far-reaching easements at the expense of the other sides and the good of the public. It was strongly criticized, and a New York federal court ruled that the victims had been deceived and their rights violated. Then-Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, which in 2008 had been the federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida and approved the deal, was forced to resign. Shortly after Epstein was arrested, the prosecutor for the Southern District of New York decided to try him on serious criminal charges such as sex trafficking of minors, conspiracy to traffic women, and bribing witnesses.
On Aug. 10, 2019, Epstein was found in his jail cell, having hanged himself. But the affair wasn’t over. Three months ago, the FBI managed to locate and arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. For years, people have claimed that she was allegedly a partner in Epstein’s sex industry. Maxwell, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend who maintained close ties with him, is being accused, among other things, of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illicit sex acts and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. She denies all the claims being made against her. After the affair came to light, Netflix produced the documentary series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, which premiered this past May.
Giuffre’s claims against Dershowitz were first raised at the end of 2014 during legal proceedings after several victims claimed that the prosecutors and the court in the Epstein case had not presented them with the details of Epstein’s plea bargain or allowed them to express their opinions about it before it was signed, as the law on victims’ rights requires. Giuffre, anonymously at the time, claimed that Epstein had sex trafficked her, and in her accusations mentioned Dershowitz’s name. Giuffree claims that she had sex with Dershowitz at least six times – at Epstein’s home in New Mexico; on one of his private planes, and on Epstein’s private island Little St. James, which was also called Orgy Island or Pedophile Island, among other locations.
Dershowitz says he never heard those names for the island, although he had heard it called “Little St. Jeff.”
“The original accusation was at the end of 2014, but I won that. It was over. Nobody knew she had made a false accusation. Her lawyers settled the lawsuit with me and admitted it was wrong. Then came the #MeToo movement and it all got resurrected, and then came Netflix, and that was the final blow that persuaded many people that it must be true. But the accusation has become more believed since Netflix and the #MeToo movement than it was before.
Dershowitz explains that because Giuffree’s claims originally appeared in internal court documents, he had no legal recourse. He demanded that the court expunge them because he had no way of defending himself against the allegations.
“The federal judge struck the accusation from the record as irrelevant and impertinent, and Giuffre’s lawyers admitted it had been a ‘mistake’ for her to file it,” he writes in his book.
But later, Dershowitz said, details started being leaked to the media. He is convinced that Giuffre and her lawyer were doing it intentionally. Dershowitz was asked to respond, and then parts of the lies started to come to light.
Giuffre sued Dershowitz for his adamant repudiation of her accusations after they were reported in the media. He immediately counter-sued.
“I couldn’t sue her originally because all of her accusations were made in court papers [litigation privilege]. So I waited until she made the accusations on Netflix and then I amended the lawsuit because that’s not privileged. What she said on Netflix is clear defamation. She claimed she had sex with me six times – I never met her. Categorically, I will swear on the life of my children and grandchildren. I never touched her, never had sex with her, never to my knowledge met her. Totally made-up story from beginning to end.
“I’ve had 10,000 students, probably 3,000 or 4,000 of whom were women. Many research assistants who were women. Many colleagues who were women. No one has ever made even an allegation of touching or an improper joke or anything.
In the Netflix series, Giuffre makes her accusations explicitly, on camera, which allowed Dershowitz to sue her in the Southern District Federal Court of New York, which he did in June. He is demanding, in addition to damages, that “every single detail of her claims against me and my detailed responses be made part of the legal proceeding, in front of a jury.”
Q: In June, you sent Netflix a letter, warning them you would sue because they had broadcast her accusations.
“The director said, ‘Why don’t you challenge her to accuse you on camera?’ I said, yeah, I’ll be happy to do that because that way, if she [Giuffre] accuses me on camera, I can sue her and she can’t say she only accused me in court papers. I said, I’ll say it on camera if you promise to give me an opportunity to respond. And she [the director] did, in front of my wife. She didn’t give me the opportunity. That’s why we’re suing them. We’re suing them for breach of contract. Also, they didn’t have to wait for my book to know. They had in their possession – I had already given them – the emails, the tape of the lawyer, the tape of her best friend. They promised me in writing that they would use all of that material. They didn’t use it on the show at all.
“We have emails where she’s being told who I am,” he says. In one, Giuffre asks a journalist, via email, “Just wondering if you have any information on you from when you and I were doing interviews about the JE story. I wanted to put the names of some of these …. JE sent me to.”
The journalist responds: “Don’t forget Alan Dershowitz … JE’s buddy and lawyer. Good name for your pitch as he repped Claus von Bulow and a movie was made about that case … title was Reversal of Fortune. We all suspect Alan is a pedo and tho no proof of that, you probably met him when he was hanging out w JE.”
Giuffre responds: ‘Thanks again… I’m bringing down the house with this book!!!”
What’s more, Dershowitz says, “Her best friend has a tape where [Giuffre] admitted that she never wanted to include me, because I never met her, but she was pressured to include me by her lawyers. I have a tape of her lawyer saying she’s wrong, simply wrong, that I couldn’t have been in the places she said I was in, that she clearly made a mistake. He argues it was a mistake. He admits it was wrong for her to accuse me.
“My accuser made up a whole story about Al Gore. Virginia Giuffre has this long account in her book of how she had dinner with Al Gore and Tipper Gore on Jeffrey Epstein’s island. Only one problem – Al Gore and Tipper Gore never met Jeffrey Epstein, didn’t know him, were never on the island. She got paid $160,000 [from the Daily Mail] to make up that and other stories about innocent people like Al Gore, and they [Netflix] didn’t run that, either.”
“I want everything out, every piece of paper. Every document, every interview, everything. I want it to be made public because I have nothing to hide. My life is an open book.
“We can account for every single day of my life between the day Giuffre met Jeffrey Epstein and the day she left, two and a half years. I can prove where I was on that day and where I wasn’t. I have American Express records, telephone records, cell phone records, TV appearance records, records of my teaching, records of my court appearances, and I can prove that it is literally impossible for me to have been in the places where she claims she had sex with me seven times.
“I have never done anything wrong in my private life. Period. I have never hugged a woman inappropriately, I’ve never touched a woman inappropriately. During the relevant period, I’ve had sexual contact with one person, my wife. I have nothing to hide. I don’t think that’s true of all the other people who are being accused. I understand why people who have something to hide would say, ‘Let’s just let this thing slide away.’
“But I’ve lived a completely open and honorable private life. I’m controversial in my public life. Defending President Trump is very controversial. Defending O.J. Simpson is very controversial. But my private life has been without blemish. Fifty years at Harvard, not a single complaint. I had 25 female research assistants, 25 female secretaries, I’ve worked with women all over the world – not a single complaint ever. I think almost none of the other people who are accused can say that.
“If you’ve been falsely accused but you did things you’re embarrassed about, maybe the best thing is just ‘No comment.’ But if you’ve falsely accused like me and you did nothing, period, you have nothing to hide, your life is an open book, you have to fight back, and I’m fighting back.”
‘I didn’t like what I discovered’
Q: You were Epstein’s friend before you were his attorney, and he was one of the small circle of people who read your book manuscripts before they were published. What happened that caused you to stop representing him in 2008?
“I had a relationship with him until the day he was arrested. That relationship ended and it became a formal legal relationship where he paid me for every single second that I advised him. My relationship with him ended when he pleaded guilty. I no longer had any relationship with him, never saw him after that for years and years. He would call me occasionally as his lawyer. I didn’t socialize with him, I didn’t go to his home, I didn’t fly on his airplane, I had no personal relationship with him from that point on.”
“I didn’t like what he had done. At that point, I found out things about him that I didn’t know. When I first knew him, I didn’t know there were any young women in his life. I never saw him with any young people.
“I’m not claiming he’s innocent and I’m not ruling out the possibility that Giuffre was one of his victims. What is absolutely certain is that I am a victim of her false accusations.”
Q: In the series, you staunchly defend the plea bargain he was given, thanks to you.
“I was one of a group of about 10 lawyers who got the plea deal. I’m very proud of it. That’s my job. I’m proud of being a lawyer and getting the best deal I possibly can for my clients. Would you want me to get the worst deal for my client?
“My job is to win on behalf of my client, like a doctor’s job is to cure. I’m happy to defend myself, but that shouldn’t expose me to false charges of sexual misconduct. The two have nothing to do with each other.
“If you want to blame anyone for that [the plea bargain], you blame the prosecutor. You blame the judge. But the one person you can’t blame is the defense attorney. The defense attorney’s job is to get the best deal. I was not involved in any aspect of the deal except that he would plead to a state charge, not a federal charge, because they didn’t have a good federal case against him. They didn’t have any evidence that they had transported young women in interstate commerce. So the deal was he would plead to a state case, go to jail, have to register as a sex offender, but would not be prosecuted federally. Had he been prosecuted federally, we probably would have won the case, because they didn’t have the evidence.”
Dershowitz says that Epstein was “furious” over the plea bargain. “He didn’t even want to pay his bill because he thought he should never have been convicted of a felony or had to register as a sex offender.”
Q: If Epstein were alive and asked you to represent him in this case, would you?
“I don’t usually defend people twice, so I wouldn’t defend him. I believe everyone is entitled to a defense, and the more unpopular you are, the more you’re entitled to a defense.
“I will represent anyone accused of any crime as long as several criteria are met: Number one, they’re not fugitives. Number two, they’re not in the business of continuing to commit crimes. And I haven’t represented them before. Now, Epstein might not fit that second criteria. If I believed he was continuing to do criminal acts, I wouldn’t have represented him.
“Since that time, Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer called me and asked me to advise and consult. It was Harvey Weinstein. Everybody hated Harvey Weinstein. But I decided no, he had a legal claim and I would help. I do represent people who everybody hates. I will continue to do that. I’ve taught my students for 50 years that you must be the lawyer of last resort. I’m now representing [Wikileaks founder] Julian Assange. People hate Julian Assange, and I’m going to help defend him in the United States.
‘Willing to lie for money’
As part of the war he is waging, Dershowitz published a book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo, about the affair that includes evidence that he claims proves his innocence.
“All my friends told me not to write this book. My friends told me, don’t write this book, it will just bring more attention to the accusations. Just let them go away. That’s not my goal. I don’t want to end my life with people thinking I let an accusation like this just slide. My goal is to completely, totally, categorically, disprove the allegations. Not for my sake, but for the sake of everybody who has been falsely accused.
“My determination is also to see that there are consequences for those who got together and conspired to try to destroy my career and life by willfully and deliberately falsely accusing me of something they know I didn’t do.
“This was a deliberate, willful conspiracy by a group of sleazy lawyers, unethical lawyers, and a client willing to lie to make money, to destroy my reputation.
“The plan was a very elegant and simple and disgraceful plan – we’ll accuse Dershowitz in public of having sex with a woman he never met, seven times, in places he was never at during the relevant time period. We’ll do that in public, and they can go to [others] and say ‘We can do to you what we did to Dershowitz.'”
Dershowitz’s book opens with a note to readers: “The #MeToo movement has generally been a force for good, but as with many good movements, it is being exploited by some bad people for personal profit. Supporters of the #MeToo movement must not allow false accusers to hurt real victims by hiding behind its virtuous shield, turning it into an exploitative sword against innocent people.”
Q: Why was it important to you to write that introduction?
“Because the #MeToo spirit made it possible to attack me.
“I would never want to attack the #MeToo movement. It’s a good movement, but when abused, it has to be exposed. Because people who make false accusations under the #MeToo movement endanger the #MeToo movement and endanger the credibility of real victims. When I win my lawsuits, I’ll donate the money not only to causes to defend the wrongly accused, but to causes the create opportunities to go after people who are correctly accused. For women who have truthfully accused, I want to put money there, and also put money for people who have been falsely accused. They’re not inconsistent. They’re completely consistent, because both sides should be in favor of ’emet’ [truth].”
Dershowitz says, “If I win the money from these people I’m going to give it to Aleph, and other organizations. to aid for sexual assault victims and victims of false accusations, because they are on the exact same side: the side of the truth. Along with them, I’ll donate to groups that fight BDS, to the Aleph Institute that helps get Jewish and Israeli prisoners all over the world released, and Hazolah.”
Hazolah is one of a long list of Jewish and Israeli organizations that Dershowitz has volunteered for or donated to for decades.
“My wife and I have an ambucycle named after us. Every time the ambucycle saves a life, we get an email.”
Dershowitz was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to an Orthodox Jewish family. He went to Yeshiva University High School and studied law at Yale. In 1964 he was appointed a lecturer at Harvard University Law School, where he worked until 2013. He divides his time between his apartments in Manhattan and Miami Beach, and every summer he vacations on Martha’s Vineyard.
Dershowitz has published 46 books, some of which deal with Israel. His last book, Confirming Justice or Injustice: A Guide to the Confirmation Process, which focuses on the process of appointing the new US Supreme Court justice, was written and published in eight days.
Over the years, he has represented notable personalities, including Jonathan Pollard, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, and many others. In Guilt by Accusation, he writes: “I represented half my clients pro bono. These included many women, some of whom were victims of sexual, physical, and psychological assaults. Some of my female clients are well-known, like Mia Farrow, Patricia Heart … and Maryam Rajavi; some are not, like the woman whose husband locked her up in a mental hospital, the wife who killed her abusive husband, the Harvard student who was sexually harassed by her professor.”
Dershowitz tells Israel Hayom: “The most important case I ever did in my life was Natan Sharansky. I was his lawyer along with Irwin Cotler, helping him get out of prison. When he walked over the Glienicke Bridge, I had tears in my eyes. It was one of the greatest moments of my legal career. For me, the case I did with Irwin Cotler involving Natan Sharansky is the singular most important case of my long career. It’s a pleasure occasionally to represent a really good person, a nice person, and innocent person. Criminal lawyers don’t get to do that too often. We’re more likely to be representing Epsteins and Simpsons and Von Bulows. I represented Sharansky for eight years, for free. I even paid all my own legal expenses.”
‘My voice was silenced’
Dershowitz is one of the most prominent, eloquent, devoted, and influential advocates for Israel, but he says that Giuffre’s accusations have resulted in him being “canceled.”
“I can no longer go on college campuses and speak in defense of Israel. And that’s had a big impact, because with people like the ‘Squad’ going on college campuses and talking against Israel, normally they would ask me to come and respond. But I’m no longer allowed to speak on college campuses because feminists will protest that I’m an accused rapist, child molester, whatever you want to call it. So it’s resulted in me being silence and canceled in my defense of Israel, and that’s one of the reasons I’m fighting back so strongly against this. I want to be able to go back on campus.”
“It started with the accusation, but it’s become much worse after the Netflix [series],” Dershowitz says. What’s more, Jewish organizations are no longer inviting him to speak.
“They said, ‘We know you’re innocent, but there are too many protesters, too much trouble. Temple Emmanu-El in New York, the largest synagogue, canceled me. I am no longer getting invitations to speak at Jewish book fairs, or book fairs in general.”
“It’s like McCarthyism. During McCarthyism, people were not allowed to appear, not because they were guilty, but because they didn’t want trouble. It’s an absolute disgrace that the 92nd St. Y, a Jewish place for speakers, would cancel me after 25 years. I was the second most frequent and popular speaker after Elie Wiesel. And I have to tell you, if Elie Wiesel were alive today, he would never again speak at the 92nd St. Y. He would be so appalled at them canceling me he would never speak there. I know that.”
“It just shows you what can happen to a good person who’s lived an honorable life and tried his best never to do anything immoral or improper. It can be destroyed by one accusation by a woman with a long history of lying.”
On the office wall behind him dozens of pictures are hung close together. There is a drawing of a pioneer that he was given by the JNF, a caricature of him from when he was defending Claus von Bulow (about which the film Reversal of Fortune was made), honorary doctorates, and pictures of him with American and Israeli leaders, including one with Golda Meir in her office.
“I met with Golda many times.” He looks at the picture and smiles. “She made me tea, and she invited me to her house, tea, and we just sat around and schmoozed.”
“In 1970, her best friend in America, Arthur Goldberg, who she grew up with, was a justice on the Supreme Court. Arthur told me that she loves unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes. He told me to smuggle a carton of Lucky Strikes to her and she would be forever grateful. So
I took the cigarettes and put them in the bottom of my leg. I strapped them to my leg, because they told me her security wouldn’t allow me to bring her cigarettes. So as soon as I walked into her office I picked up the leg of my pants, took the cigarettes and presented them to her. She said, ‘Arthur and Dorothy, right? They always send me cigarettes.’
“I’ve known all the prime ministers of Israel since Golda Meir,” Dershowitz says, regardless of their party affiliation. “I’m there for Israel.”
In the past few decades, Dershowitz has been involved in attempts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as other issues pertaining to Israel, like Iran’s nuclear weapons program. More recently, he was involved in authoring the Trump administration’s peace plan and promoting normalization between Israel and Gulf Arab states.
At the start of 2018, he says, President Trump reached out to him to hear his opinions, and for a few days he joined Trump’s team members who were talking about the details of the Trump peace plan, including Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz.
“Since 1970 I’ve consistently expressed the opinion that the two-state solution must be promoted, but on the condition that the Palestinian state be demilitarized, the Jordan Valley remain under Israeli sovereignty, and Israel’s security interests be carefully upheld. I’ve met with Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] and Saeb Erekat a few times, and I felt that we could reach an agreement. I still believe that. I’ll always be the first to enlist to help preserve the strong ties between Israel and the US and to protect Israel and its interests,” Dershowitz says.
Q: You spoke up in defense of Prime Minister Netanyahu and said he should not face trial.
“I do not believe that Netanyahu committed any legitimate crimes. Prime ministers always negotiate with the media about good coverage and bad coverage. If you wanted to start indicting people, how about indicting the 45 members of the Knesset who wrote against Israel Hayom in order to get good coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth?
“You don’t want to criminalize that. I go back a long time with [attorney general] Avi Mendelblit, who I also like very much. I believe he’s a man of integrity. He’s made a mistake. He’s wrong about prosecuting Netanyahu.”
“About receiving personal items, if you want to make it a crime to accept personal gifts, you have to have a specific number in the statute. Anybody who accepts gifts worth more than 10,000 shekels has to report them. That’s the way it is in the United States. But to leave it up to the discretion of the prosecutor whether a certain number of bottles of champagne is too many, whether a certain number of cigars is too many – that gives the prosecutor too much discretion.
“Every time I go to see the prime minister, I give him a gift, one of my books. It’s worthless, but it’s still a gift. If you want to change the law and have a specific amount, that would be a good thing to do. But absent that, I don’t think it’s proper to use the criminal law to say ‘It was too much.'”
None of this is political support, but rather an expression of a legal opinion, and has nothing to do with his political opinions. “I was a Hillary Clinton supporter, I know Joe Biden. I’m not a supporter of Donald Trump’s policies. But I believe in the Constitution, and I don’t believe that the impeachment attempt against his was legitimate attempt to impeach him was legitimate, was constitutionally authorized. So I’m going to defend him in exactly the same way I helped defend Bill Clinton,” Dershowitz says.
Q: Are you still a Democrat?
“I’m still a Democrat. I’ll remain a Democrat as long as I can have influence within the Democratic Party to marginalize the anti-Israel extreme Left. That’s why I favored the nomination of Joe Biden over the only Jewish person to ever run seriously for president, Bernie Sanders, who I didn’t support because of his attitudes toward Israel.”
Q: What are Biden’s positions on Israel?
“I’m satisfied that both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are generally pro-Israel. You don’t know what influence the hard Left will have on a Democratic president. Remember that this [congresswoman] from Queens, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, refused to even speak at Americans for Peace Now, a left-wing pro-peace organization, because she doesn’t want to be perceived in any way as supporting Zionism. She’s very hostile to Israel. Many on the American Left have reached out to her to try and get her to go to Israel, to meet with Israeli officials. She has adamantly refused.
“She is the young, new image of progressives and ‘woke’ people in the Democratic Party. My voice is needed to fight back against that, along with the voice of young people and others. We need to make sure that the Democratic Party retains its bipartisan support for Israel.”
Q: Do you think the strong connection between Trump and Netanyahu weakened the pro-Israel voices in the Democratic Party?
“It did in some respects, but not in others. I think the real pro-Israel voices in the Democratic Party are still there. There have been some who say, ‘Anything Trump is for, we’re against.’ The most take the view that we’re for Israel, we don’t support a particular government or oppose a particular government, we’re just going to be supportive of Israel, but not of all of its policies.”
“If Obama had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, every Jew in the world would support it. But because Trump did it, a significant number of Jews said no, it shouldn’t have happened, or it was the wrong time.
“The big issue that divided Democrats and Republicans was the  Iran deal. Many, many Jewish Democrats opposed the Iran deal. I strongly opposed it; I wrote a book, The Case Against the Deal, and that ended my relationship with Obama. The year I wrote my book, Obama for the first time didn’t invite me to the White House Hanukkah party.”
‘Violence isn’t freedom of speech’
Q: Do you support anti-government protests, like the ones in Israel, which are about both Netanyahu’s policies and his handling of the COVID crisis?
“We’re seeing the same thing in the United States, and it will get worse. When the election is over, there will probably be street riots. No matter who loses, one side or the other will go to the streets and riot, and there will be violence and demonstrations. I favor protests. Protests are protected by free speech. But violence is not. We’re seeing the same thing in the United States, a combination of protesting President Trump’s policies toward COVID and protesting his general policies, including his nomination of a Supreme Court Justice [Amy Coney Barrett], and it will get worse.”
“We live in a world in which people are more divided than ever. In America, we’re more divided than we have been since the Civil War, and I think Israel is more divided than they have been in my memory. I’ve been to Israel 100 times since 1970. I’ve never seen that kind of division. I had a birthday party in Israel some years ago, I think it was when I was 70. I invited all my friends. There were people from the Right and Left who’d never met each other. Netanyahu was there, he wasn’t prime minister at the time, Aharon Barak was there, he was the president of the Supreme Court. … Today, I probably could not have a birthday party to which I invited both Prime Minister Netanyahu and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.”
Q: Some claim that the leadership in both the US and Israel is fueling the divide.
“I think both sides are fueling the divide. As a result of defending President Trump in front of the Senate, I’ve lost many of my friends on Martha’s Vineyard. Who fueled that? It’s both sides. I’ll continue to advise prime ministers or presidents if they ask me for advice. That’s the obligation of a lawyer and a public citizen.
Q: What is your opinion of Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court?
“She would not have been my choice. She is very anti-abortion, and the question is, will she allow her religion to interfere in any way with her judicial decisions. She has written about it herself, saying orthodox Catholic judges might have to recuse themselves in cases involving capital punishment and abortion. Senators will ask her questions about that.
“The timing is very problematic, and once could argue hypocritical. When President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland eight months before the election, the Republicans wouldn’t vote on his confirmation. But now, it’s only a few weeks before the election, and fro the president to nominate somebody who will shift the balance of the court for the next 50 years, is problematic. It’s constitutionally permissible, but it’s politically and morally problematic.”
Q: So it’s kosher…
“But not Glatt Kosher.”
Q: Judge Coney Barrett could play a critical role given that Trump has not promised to honor the result of the election and the Supreme Court could decide the matter.
“If the whole thing is decided for Trump by a judge he just appointed there will be a major constitutional crisis. But I don’t think that will happen, because right now the polls show that the result will be decisive and Biden will win. On the other hand, there’s no way of knowing. Hillary Clinton led in the polls, too.”
Q: What is your opinion of Trump’s opposition to mail-in voting?
“It’s a mistake. I think that we need to allow voting by mail, even if a small number might be fraudulent, the vast majority won’t be, and it’s important to take into account.”
Q: Which method of appointing judges do you think is better, the Israeli or American one?
“The Israeli system is in danger, it’s been challenged. I like the Israeli system generally, where highly professional people are picked for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has really been an excellent institution. I think that it’s a big mistake to allow too much political involvement in the appointment of judges. The it should be a professional decision. I think the Israeli Supreme Court has proved its credibility. Justices like [Meir] Shamgar, and Barak, and [Dorit] Beinisch have been jewels in the Israeli system. I’m friends with them all. I miss president Shamgar a lot. I first met him when he was the [IDF] Advocate General.
“The Israeli system, like every legal system, has problems. There are selective prosecutions. I think the prosecution in the Netanyahu case is wrong, and I think it may be politically motivated. I’m critical of it. But that doesn’t mean you criticize the whole concept. The Israeli legal system in general is quite good. The Supreme Court is superb. Do I agree with all of its opinions? Of course not. That doesn’t mean I would criticize the entire idea.
“The Israeli public should support the Israeli legal system. It’s very important that a legal system have credibility.”
(Israel Hayom – Exclusive).