Ambassador Ross to Offer an Insider’s View of Diplomacy

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Dennis Ross is optimistic about the future between Israel and the United States, which he discusses in his book, Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama.

American diplomat Dennis Ross, who has served under three presidents, has a level of perspective and expertise on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East that is hard to match. So when he talks, people tend to listen.
And what he is saying now is that he is optimistic about the future between Israel and the United States. On March 30, he will discuss his book, Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama, at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City.
“There are presidents that had an emotional connection to Israel and others who had none,” Ross surmised in an interview last week.
Doomed to Succeed deals with the complexities of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the larger Middle East landscape. In the first part of the book, he covers the administrations of Harry Truman through Ronald Reagan and in the second half, provides personal insight into his detailed accounts of diplomacy.
Ross is counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Prior to returning to the Institute in 2011, he served two years as special assistant to President Barack Obama and National Security Council senior director for the central region, and a year as special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
For more than 12 years, Ross played a role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. Ross was U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995 Interim Agreement and also successfully brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord.
He told the Jewish Exponent there has always been tension between America and Israel. Many presidents have feared repercussions from Arab nations if they appeared too friendly with Israel. While Truman recognized Israel just 11 minutes after its declaration of statehood in 1948, he and his successors took a cautious approach. It wasn’t until 1962, under the Kennedy administration, that the first arms sales to the Jewish state were approved, and not until 1964 that an Israeli prime minister visited the White House.
Ross recalled how most presidents, with the exceptions of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, act different with Israel depending on their predecessor. If the previous president was close with Israel, then the next was distant. Nixon distanced himself after Johnson, Carter after Ford and Bush after Reagan.
Clinton was particularly close with assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
“When he [Clinton] spoke at the funeral, he coined the term ‘shalom, chaverim’ — ‘goodbye, friend,’ ” Ross said. “He connected with the Israeli public because he knew how to address what mattered most to them.”
Acknowledging the obvious, Ross said Obama does not have the best relationship with Israel. He believes the president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have personal differences, and that Obama looks at Israel as being strong and the Palestinians as being weak. But, he is doing his best to smooth things over.
“The Obama administration is now negotiating a 10-year agreement to replace the one that expires next year,” Ross said. The current U.S.-Israel memorandum of understanding (MOU), which will expire in 2017, provides Israel with $3.1 billion in aid annually and is aimed at bolstering the security of the United States’ strongest ally in the Middle East.
Ross told the Exponent he is not for or against the nuclear deal reached by Iran and the United Nations Security Council in October 2015. The deal has seen Iran dismantle and remove two-thirds of its centrifuges, ship 25,000 pounds of uranium out of the country and provide unprecedented access to its facilities.
Ross explains in his book that much of the Obama administration’s motivation to reach a nuclear agreement was rooted in its fear that Israel would launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. He describes how close the administration believed Israel came to attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, and the effort made by Obama to stop it.
He noted it is a good deal because a lot can be learned about Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in 15 years and it can limit what Iran can manufacture. While Obama contends that this impedes Iran from creating weapons, Ross wants to know what happens when the deal is done.
“What’s not great about it is it does not limit the character of the Iranian infrastructure,” he said. “There needs to be an ongoing approach to the region.”
Contact: jcohen@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0747

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