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The Negotiator

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Born in Israel in 1973, Roy Schöndorf JSD ’07 was six weeks old when the Yom Kippur War erupted and his father was drafted into military service as a reservist. “It’s not something that I myself remember,” says Schöndorf. “But it was a very difficult war, and certainly made an impact on my upbringing and even my choice to pursue a career in international law.”

Now, as the deputy attorney general for international law in Israel’s Ministry of Justice, Schöndorf is responsible for providing legal advice on all aspects of international law, including international litigation and treaty negotiations. His work is crucial to the current state of play of the Israeli government’s actions, both internally and abroad. In recent months, this has included providing advice in heightened security situations, such as confrontations between Israel and Hamas in Gaza this summer.

Schöndorf, 40, is relatively young to hold such a high position in the Israeli government; however, he already has an impressive record of working in the field of international law, with a particular focus on the negotiation of peace.

After receiving two LLBs and an MA in law and economics from Tel Aviv University, Schöndorf served as a senior legal adviser in the international law department of the Israeli Defense Forces Military Advocate General Unit. When Israelis and Syrians came together in 2000 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to negotiate the terms of a possible peace treaty, Schöndorf was part of the Israeli delegation.

It was a particularly significant experience for him on a personal level, he says, as someone who was born into the last war with Syria “to be able to be there and meet people that there was previously no way for an Israeli to meet, then…to meet them in person and be able to exchange views about the future of our region, of our children, of our countries.”

Later, while serving in the Israeli delegation to the assembly of states working on the formation of the International Criminal Court, Schöndorf became interested in writing a dissertation in the field of international criminal law. He came to NYU Law as a Fulbright and then Hauser Scholar, and wrote his dissertation under the direction of Professor Theodor Meron, who is now president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

Schöndorf returned to Israel in 2010, when he was asked to establish the Department of Special International Affairs, a new department in Israel’s Ministry of Justice. Daniel Geron LLM ’02, who began his studies at NYU Law at the same time as Schöndorf, and who is now the acting legal adviser for the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, describes Schöndorf’s meteoric rise in the field of international law as a result of the very high regard in which he is held across government ministries.

“Everyone recognizes that he understands the intricacies of international law, and the sensitivities of the issues, particularly well,” says Geron, “and he’s able to explain the complexities to the people who need to ultimately make the decisions.”

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