Law Expert Blasts Draft Treaty
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Law Expert Blasts Draft Treaty

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Prof. Yoram Dienstein, Dean of the Tel Aviv University Law School, has blasted the draft peace treaty worked out between Israel and Egypt in Washington over the last two months. From a professional legal point of view, he said in a long article published in Haaretz, the document is rife with loose, ambiguous phraseology that carries the seeds of future conflicts and is so amateurishly constructed that if submitted by one of his students it would have been given a barely passing grade.

Dienstein accused the Israeli government of legal “nit-picking” and contended that the controversy over “linkage” and Article VI that has stalled the peace talks for the past three weeks is meaningless. He said the “so-called linkage” is clearly spelled out in the treaty preamble which establishes the Israeli-Egyptian agreement as part of an overall Middle East peace settlement and for Israel to protest now is “crying over spilled milk.”

As for Article VI, which Egypt wants to change, Dienstein said that even if the Egyptians agreed that the treaty with Israel takes precedence over all past treaties Egypt may have signed, “what can prevent Egypt from signing the next day another agreement with another country that takes precedence over its agreement with Israel ?”

Official circles here were clearly unhappy over Dienstein’s public observations and sought to ridicule his arguments on grounds that they concerned only fringe problems. But the feeling was expressed that they have harmed Israel’s cause. The law school dean has considerable influence in Israel’s legal establishment and his views have been seconded by senior jurists. Chief Justice Meir Shamgar of the Supreme Court indicated that he agreed with Dienstein over the treaty preamble and Article VI.

In a television interview after publication of the article and in a symposium held over the weekend, Dienstein said the Israelis lacked proper professional legal advice. He said that Prof. Aharon Barak, now a Supreme Court Justice and formerly State Attorney who helped draft the treaty, is an outstanding authority on Israeli law. But he is not an expert in international law.


Government circles have leaked the fact that Dienstein was consulted on Premier Menachem Begin’s original peace plan providing “self-rule” for the Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which was offered by Israel early this year. The law school dean readily admitted that he had been consulted but noted that his comments were never made public. In that connection, he has revealed portions of his letter dated Jan. 25,1978, to Barak who was then the government’s chief legal advisor.

Dienstein wrote: “I am under the impression that more than one hand wrote it (the Begin peace plan). There are a few items that an expert hand did, such as the paragraph dealing with aviation and others. But most of the document is on an amateurish level — sub-level would be more correct.”

Dienstein wrote that he was “shocked by the thought that the Israeli government can present such a paper as an official document to other governments….I do not regard this draft as suitable even as a basis for changes. It would be better to start work anew in a serious and professional manner.”

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