Dennis Ross: The departure of Israel’s man in the White House

Max Blumenthal writes: The Friday resignation of chief White House adviser on the Middle East Dennis Ross drew sharply contrasting reactions that reflected the sectarian, pro-Israel agenda his presence in government represented.

AIPAC, the key arm of the Israel lobby, issued a rare statement hailing Ross’s legacy. “In his tireless pursuit of Middle East peace, Ambassador Ross has maintained a deep understanding of the strategic value of the US-Israel relationship and has worked vigorously to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Rashid Khalidi, a former negotiator for the PLO who now directs the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, had a less positive take on Ross’s legacy.

“Since the Reagan administration, Dennis Ross has played a crucial role in crafting Middle East policies that never served peace, which is today farther away than ever,” Khalidi said. “His efforts, which contributed to the growth in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, were marked by a litany of failures. It is long overdue for him and the bankrupt policies he represents to be shown the door.”

Despite references to Ross’s pro-Israel leanings by his defenders and detractors, his full impact on the trajectory of US policy towards the Middle East in general and the Arab Israeli conflict in particular remains underrated or under-reported.

Serving in four American administrators and overseeing a long and fruitless process to secure an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ross did more than any official to advance Israeli ambitions of expansion at the cost of Palestinian pursuit of statehood and freedom.

Inside the Obama White House, Ross made little effort to conceal his pro-Israel agenda. While serving on the President’s National Security Council, Ross actively sought to obstruct the US from pressing Israel to engage in negotiations on final status issues like borders and refugees, or to apply measures to stop its construction of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. At the same time, Ross spearheaded Washington’s effort to punish Iran for pursuing nuclear energy capacity, pushing for harsh sanctions against Iran that have proven fruitless. The New York Times described Ross simply as “Israel’s friend in the Obama White House.”

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.

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