Speaking at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst, Alan Dershowitz accused President Barack Obama of breaking promises and described the Middle East performance of Secretary of State John Kerry as a “disaster.”
Noting that he is “very supportive of a two-state solution” and “very much opposed to the nuclear power deal made with Iran,” the famed attorney and author told an audience packing the synagogue’s sanctuary Dec. 5 about a conversation he’d had with the president prior to the 2012 election.
“He promised me that Iran would never have a nuclear bomb and that his policies would be aimed at prevention, not containment,” Dershowitz said, adding that on that basis he had voted for Obama. “He broke those promises.”
Dershowitz said Obama seems to bring to his assessment of issues an ideology of “war as a last resort.”
The president has been hesitant to speak of Islamist extremists because he wants it to be clear that America is not fighting a war against Islam.
“I understand his motivation, but I think he’s wrong,” Dershowitz said. “In the end, I believe we have to use terms like ‘Islamic extremists’ and ‘Islamic jihadists.’”
Dershowitz covered a range of topics in a 90-minute program that included questions from the audience.
Asked how he reconciles his opposition to the death penalty with approval of aggressive armed action to perceived threats, Dershowitz said, “The death penalty is invoked after the perpetrator has been placed in custody and, presumably, no longer poses a danger.”
Author of a 2014 book called Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas, Dershowitz said he never opposed actions taken in self-defense or even pre-emptive strikes to block existing or potential perils.
“Those tunnels had no other purpose than to enable attacks against Israel,” said the former Harvard Law School professor.
“My goal is to make as certain as possible that U.S. support never becomes anything but a bipartisan issue — in Congress and the White House. I want both Democrats and Republicans to be as pro-Israel as they can be.”
The Obama administration has managed to alienate just about everyone in the Middle East, he said, adding, “I believe any Democrat or Republican elected in 2016 is bound to do better.”
Torat El’s president, Larry Shapiro, asked whether O.J. Simpson, whom Dershowitz defended in his 1994-95 murder trial, was innocent or guilty. Dershowitz demurred, but did suggest that Simpson is “not a nice man. I wouldn’t want my daughter to go out with him.”
Defending his defense of some unsavory characters, Dershowitz, now 77, cited Deuteronomy: “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” (“Justice justice you must pursue”). In pursuit of justice, he said, lawyers are obligated to make the best possible case on their clients’ behalf.
Following the presentation, Torat El’s Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun said having Dershowitz at the synagogue was “a great honor. I appreciated the intellectual rigor of the conversation, his respect for learning, and his openness to hearing both sides of every argument.”
Torat El member Sheila Kason of Ocean said, “I concur in what he said about Obama. I just wish he had more time to go into it further.”
The Torat El program was made possible by grants from B’nai Sholom/Beth El Foundation; Ansell, Grimm & Aron; Withum, Smith & Brown; the Leon Hess Business School at Monmouth University; and Barry Shapiro & Allison Block.
The event committee included Pam Cardullo, Lisa Arnold, Dawn Barofsky, Joanne Bass, Mindy Estin, Beverle Richelson, Marc Schnabolk, Carri Silverberg, Judy Solomon, Mark Steinberg, Neil Warar, and Michelle Winters.