Israel’s War of Words with Obama White House


USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munayyer appears on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon

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LEMON: President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, making a big speech on the middle east tomorrow, but what will happen in the region after Donald Trump takes office? Let’s discuss now with Yousef Munayyer. He is the executive director of the U.S. campaign for Palestinian rights. Also attorney Alan Dershowitz. He is the author of “The Case for Israel.”

Gentlemen, thank you so much. This is going to be an interesting conversation. Now, I’m going to start with you. As I said in the introduction, Secretary of State John Kerry making announcement tomorrow about this controversial U.N. resolution and about middle east peace plan. [22:15:00] The U.S. didn’t veto it, it abstained. So, why do you think the Obama administration is taking these actions now?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, AUTHOR: First of all, I think it’s fine for Secretary Kerry to make a proposal for peace. What was wrong was tying his successor’s hands by having the United Nation Security Council take the issue and issue a very broad resolution which would make it illegal for Jews to pray at the western wall, to send their children and Arab Israelis to Hebrew University or the treatment at Hadassah Hospital. It was too broad. It was a badly constructed resolution. But…

LEMON: It would make it illegal to settle on the land, it would make it illegal to go there to visit.

DERSHOWITZ: No, a settlement means any building. Take, for example, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. So the Jewish Quarter have been inhabited by Jews for hundreds of years. The Jordanians captured illegally during a genocide war against Israel in 1948. Israel recaptured it after the Jordanians attacked Israel in 1967. The Jewish moved back into their homes. The synagogues have been desecrated. The cemeteries…

LEMON: But no state recognizes that. No state recognizes that.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, that’s up for negotiation, but the U.N. should declare it.

LEMON: Jerusalem has always been under negotiation for a two-party.

DERSHOWITZ: That’s right, but the U.N. shouldn’t resolve it. It should be subject to negotiation. Israel wants to offer land for peace. But if there is no land to offer, if the U.N. has already said, this is illegal when it’s subject to negotiation, it has concluded what should be concluded only after negotiation.

LEMON: Go ahead, Yousef.

YOUSEF MUNAYYER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF U.S. CAMPAIGN FOR PALESTINIAN RIGHTS: The legality of it is not subject to negotiation. In fact, this is not controversial. The entire world, with the exception of Israel and, actually, within Israel, it’s the right wing in Israel that does not agree with this.

LEMON: There is no country that recognizes this.

MUNAYYER: Right. It’s one of the least controversial things in the world that settlements and occupied territory are illegal. And it’s actually been well established U.S. policy…

LEMON: It’s part of the Geneva Convention.

MUNAYYER: It is part of the Geneva Convention, and the United States has recognized as much not just this past week, but historically in many different resolutions. I would disagree very much with Alan is on this notion that somehow this is tying Donald Trump’s hands. You know, there have been many resolutions like this in the past, which frankly, presidents have ignored when it comes to enforcement.

LEMON: There have been many resolutions during the Obama administration. This is the only one that they have abstained from, and the only one where they did not back Israel.

MUNAYYER: The only time that the Obama administration has ever used its veto at the United Nation Security Council was to prevent a resolution criticizing settlements. And I think what you’re seeing today, this hysteria in response from the Israelis, is an attempt really to exact costs on any elected officials in the future from ever deviating even an inch from the Netanyahu right wing line.

DERSHOWITZ: First of all, there is no Israeli leader who believes that the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, Hebrew University, Hadassah Hospital, the western wall is illegally occupied. Nobody believes that. President Obama went to the western wall and prayed and put a prayer in it. Up until now, it’s always been believed that whatever the resolution is going to be, these areas will remain part of Israel.

But now, Israel’s negotiating position has been undercut by saying that this area has been unlawful. Now, who did Israel take it from? It didn’t take it from the Palestinians. It took it from the Jordanians…

LEMON: Jordanians.

DERSHOWITZ: … who have taken from the Jews. Remember, the Jews controlled…

MUNAYYER: It doesn’t matter.

DERSHOWITZ: It matters a great deal. The Jews had controlled those areas, and then as a result…

LEMON: It doesn’t matter in terms of international law. It doesn’t matters in terms of the Geneva Convention.

DERSHOWITZ: I’m a lawyer. Let me tell you. The international is very, very unclear.

LEMON: I understand — I understand that is a legal argument, but according to the United Nations and according to the Geneva Convention, the argument you’re saying does not stand.

DERSHOWITZ: According to the United Nations, Jews kill babies and take their organs. The United Nations has rendered thousands of resolution against Israel. Most of them totally phony and based on phony facts. Nobody should take seriously what the United Nations ever says about Israel.

The United Nations is a center for anti-Israel activities. It’s silent over Syria, but it has resolution over resolution. It’s silent over Tibet, it’s silent over the Ukraine, it’s silent over everything except Israel. Nobody should take the U.N. seriously at all on this issue.

LEMON: Go ahead, Yousef.

MUNAYYER: The Israelis have for the past 50 years been building these illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. And the world has said to the Palestinians, be patient. Eventually the Israelis will change. And if you were in a relationship with anybody, and they have a bad habit for 50 years.

[22:20:00] Let’s say, you know, yelling over people during arguments or something, right? And they refuse to change. And someone said to you, look, just be patient, they will change. Would you put up with that? It’s not just the United Nations that has this position.

It’s every country in the world that’s speaking at the United Nations, the British, the French, the Russians, the Americans, everybody around the world except for the right wing radical fringe in Israel believes that they need to stop colonizing Palestinian territory.


DERSHOWITZ: In 2000 and 2001, Israel offered to end all settlements and the occupation, give the Palestinians a state. Arafat said no and responded with (inaudible) which killed 4,000 people. In 2008, Omar said to the Palestinian leadership, we’ll give you even more. The Palestinians said no. When the Palestinians refuse decent offers from the Israelis, you can’t put the blame on the Israelis.

LEMON: But it was the offer of the Israelis, it wasn’t a mutual offer to be agreed upon.

MUNAYYER: One side and building settlements on the other side.

DERSHOWITZ: But Israel offered to stop the settlement.


DERSHOWITZ: … 10 months and the Palestinians refused to come to the bargaining table.

LEMON: Right. I spoke with (inaudible) about that this morning.

DERSHOWITZ: Palestinians don’t want a Palestinian state. What they want is there not to be a Jewish.

LEMON: I want to play this. Because this is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing Americans of pushing this resolution through.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording, and demanded that it be passed.


LEMON: The administration denies categorically that it is behind the resolution. (START VIDEO CLIP)

MARC TONER, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: We reject the notion that the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. That’s just not true. The United States did not draft this resolution, nor did it put it forward.

We also made clear at every conversation, in every conversation, that the president would make the final decision and that he would have to review the final text before making his final decision. So the idea that this was, again, precooked or that we had agreed upon the text weeks in advance is just not accurate.


LEMON: Do you view the actions of the United States here as a victory for the Palestinian cause, Yousef?

MUNAYYER: Look, this is not about a victory for the Palestinians or a victory for the Israelis. The United States whether they were behind this or not behind this should not have any reason to be ashamed at all for standing up for international law. It’s something that they have stated for years now from bipartisan administrations that the entire world agrees on.

This is not controversial. It’s only a problem for one person: Benjamin Netanyahu, who stakes his entire career on building in the right wing of Israeli politics. And he’s vested, deeply vested in the settlement enterprise. What you’re hearing from him today is all about him making sure he can stay in power. In fact, he reminds me of somebody that just got elected here in the United States.

LEMON: Alan, I want to play this for you. This is Ron Dermer. I spoke with him. The Israeli ambassador to the United States. Listen.


LEMON: What’s the evidence that the United States is behind this?

RON DERMER, ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We heard that a lot. We have clear evidence of it. We will present that evidence to the new administration through the appropriate channels, and if they want it shared with the American people, they’re welcome to.

LEMON: Why not present it now?

DERMER: Like I said, we will present the evidence to the new administration, and if they want to share it with the American people, they’re welcome to do it.


LEMON: Making a charge like that, shouldn’t you show the information while the person is in office to respond to it, or at least to embarrass them because they were actually behind it. If you actually do have the evidence, if they did, why wouldn’t they say, I have it. Here it is, Mr. Obama, here it is.

DERSHOWITZ: Here’s what’s going to happen. They’re gonna give it over to congressional leaders. There gonna be hearings. And the truth will come out. If the United States is not behind it, that shows even greater weakness. The United States should have been responsible for this. The whole idea that the United States advocates responsibility even…


LEMON: Even in New Zealand who’s behind it.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, but, there were meetings between the United states and New Zealand and meetings between the United States and Great Britain. The United States’ hand is clearly in this, and this is revenge by Obama. This is not about Netanyahu because Netanyahu on this issue represents all of Israel.

The entire Israeli government is against this resolution because it doesn’t limit itself to building settlements in the west bank. It also includes Jewish Jerusalem which Yousef thinks is part of of Palestine, but nobody in Israel thinks that. And nobody in America thinks that. This is not between America and Israel.

[22:25:00] Americans are not behind this resolution. Eighty-eight senators are against it. All congress is against it. Much of the Obama administration was against it. This is one man, Obama, and his cabinet against the Israeli government.

LEMON: There were 14 countries who voted for it, and…

DERSHOWITZ: They’ll vote for anything. If Algeria (ph) introduced a resolution that the earth was flat, that Israel flattened it, it will win a 143 to 26 with 14 (inaudible).

LEMON: I got it.

DERSHOWITZ: That’s the way it goes.

LEMON: Yousef, quickly if you can.

MUNAYYER: I will just say what you’re seeing now is an attempt by the Israelis. They for a number of years have been aligning themselves with the GOP, with the Republican Party. We saw it.

You know, there are fewer and fewer people who are thinking and talking like you, Alan, because the reality is Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel he represents, the values that he represents are looking less and less like the values that liberal democrats continue to hold dear.

DERSHOWITZ: It happens so many liberal democrats are opposed to this resolution. Democrats in the United States senate are opposed to this resolution. This is bipartisan opposition. Tell me somebody who supports it in the senate. Tell me somebody who supports it in the senate.

MUNAYYER: Look, it’s not about the senate. You look at American public opinion on these issues. People do not support Israel settlement enterprise.

DERSHOWITZ: But we do support Jews praying at the western wall.

MUNAYYER: This is not about Jews.


LEMON: … poll taken and two-thirds of Americans are against settlements.

DERSHOWITZ: Of course they’re against settlements, but they’re not against Jews praying at the western world…

MUNAYYER: That is not what this resolution is about…


LEMON: All right. We’re going around and around here. Alan, I’ve read the resolution, and it doesn’t say anything about Jews praying.

DERSHOWITZ: Of course. What it says is any change since ’67. And in ’64, ’67, these areas, Jews were not allowed to pray at the western wall, now they are. It’s a change.

LEMON: But this does not say that.

DERSHOWITZ: Yes, it does.

LEMON: It doesn’t say that.

DERSHOWITZ: It says that any change since 1967. That’s what it means. I want to ask the Obama administration what they think it means. Do they think it means that Jews can pray at the western wall or not? They haven’t answered that question.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Always interesting. When we come right back, President Barack Obama says he could have defeated Donald Trump. Guess what the president-elect thinks of that.