More on Dennis Ross
The praise keeps coming in!
Rashid Khalidi, in a piece really worth reading entirely:
Dennis Ross has finally left the building. Since the Carter administration, Ross has played a crucial role in crafting Middle East policies that have prolonged and exacerbated the more than six-decade conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. His efforts contributed significantly to the growth in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories from well under 200,000 in the 1980s to nearly 600,000 today. It is in no small measure due to him that the two-state solution is all but dead.
Ross’s tenure during the administrations of five presidents over parts of five decades was marked by a litany of failures. And yet he went from success to bureaucratic success in Washington. His ability to flourish despite these failures reflects the degree to which obsequious support for Israel has become the norm in American politics, even when it contradicts U.S. national interests.
When Ross announced his resignation this week, he chose to do so before the board members of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank founded by Israel’s Jewish Agency to develop prescriptions for combating threats to “Jewish demographics” in Israel and abroad. Ross directed the think tank for several years before entering the Obama administration. By the time Ross revealed his plans to retire from government, he had already arranged for a golden parachute with one of the key arms of the Israel lobby. In December, Ross will return to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a hawkish think tank that he founded in collaboration with AIPAC. After nearly three decades of advancing Israel’s interests from the inside, Ross’s career had come full circle.
The abrupt resignation, late last week, of the Obama Administration’s senior Middle East adviser Dennis Ross poses more of a problem for the President’s reelection campaign than it does for prospects of securing peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The “peace process”, after all, has long been dead; President Obama’s Special Envoy Sen. George Mitchell’s resignation last May suggesting he saw no good purpose served by pretending otherwise. And nobody in the Middle East – or anywhere else – believed that it could be revived by Ross, whose signature approach is to avoid the U.S. pressuring Israel to take steps its government is unwilling to take. (It’s precisely the absence of such pressure that prompted the Palestinians to walk away from U.S. peace efforts and go to the U.N.) But the Israeli-Palestinian issue wasn’t Ross’ priority concern on joining the Obama Administration, and it’s unlikely to have been a major determinant of his decision to quit.
Ross clearly plans to make an impact on U.S. policy towards the region from outside the Administration, and it’s safe to assume that his top priority, like WINEP’s, is Iran. As debate over how to handle Iran intensifies in the wake of the latest IAEA report on that country’s nuclear program, amid intensified Israeli saber-rattling, political pressure on the White House to toughen its stance looks likely to intensify. Right now, it’s hard to see the White House putting much behind the slogan of keeping the option of military force on the table. The U.S. military appears to be opposed to military action, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week reiterating the view of his predecessor, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, that the cost-benefit analysis weighs heavily against bombing Iran. But such reserve is not necessarily shared by much of the pro-Israel establishment, many of whose members may make Iran a key litmus test for their own 2012 political choices.