Opinion

Obama’s trip to Israel and the best path to peace

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Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
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      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

There are many pro-Israel Americans, including members of the American Jewish community, who believe that the best strategy for bringing Israel and the Palestinians to the peace table is for President Obama to try to appear neutral or even lean toward the Palestinian/Arab world viewpoint, pushing Israel to the peace table and in the negotiating process.

But the truth is, history supports exactly the opposite. History proves that the stronger an American president is in being uncompromising in supporting Israel’s security, the more likely Israel is to take risks for peace. Thus, in 2004-05, with President George W. Bush acting staunchly and unambiguously pro-Israel, Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew Israeli military forces from Gaza, despite the continued presence in Gaza of the terrorist organization Hamas, publicly dedicated to killing civilians and children in the cause of the destruction of Israel.

President Clinton also was strongly supportive of the state of Israel, and developed a particularly close personal relationship with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who led Israel’s government between 1999-2001. The results in the summer of 2000 at Camp David and in late December 2000 were dramatic — and, amazingly, largely forgotten by those who believe that Israel will make concessions under critical pressure from an American president. It is a fact of history that Barak publicly offered Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat the following remarkable concessions:

● Israel would recognize the West Bank and Gaza and portions of East Jerusalem as an independent Palestinian state — meaning, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Israeli government leader offered to give the Palestinians sovereignty over portions of Jerusalem as their state capital;

● Israel would give 97 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians for their independent state, which would be recognized by Israel and increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third in return for retaining the 3 percent, which comprised settlement lands contiguous with Israel;

● The Palestinian state would comprise all of Gaza and a secured land-link to the West Bank;

● As a result, Israel would have to force withdrawal from 63 established settlements on the West Bank;

● Remarkably — a fact that few seem to recall — also for the first time in Israeli history, an Israeli government leader endorsed the principle of some right of return to the Palestinian state of Palestinian refugees, endorsing “reparations” of $30 billion from an international fund for displaced Palestinians; and

● The Palestinians would maintain control over the holy places and would be given desalinization plants to assure their water supply.

The only concessions made by Arafat was Israeli sovereignty over the parts of the Western Wall that were religiously significant to Jews (i.e., not the entire Temple Mount of the ancient and holy temple of King Solomon) and three early warning stations in the Jordan valley, from which Israel would withdraw after six years.

But tragically, on January 2, Arafat changed his mind on critical issues, and backed away from the agreement, even refusing to countenance Israeli control over the limited holy places in Jerusalem.