The Oslo Process is Dead – Israel Killed It, With Some Help from the U.S.

While the U.S. Congress, the media and some in the Obama administration continue to engage in magical thinking regarding who exactly is responsible for the breakdown in the peace process, Israeli media is a bit more to the point. They saw the writing on the wall as soon as Obama selected the peace-rejectionist and Israel Lobby poster-boy Dennis Ross to effectively be in charge of negotiations, muscling out Senator George Mitchell.

If you’re not familiar with Ross, Akiva Eldar provides a nice summary in Haaretz:

In October 1991 he came with U.S. President George H.W. Bush to the Madrid Conference, which squandered the fruits of the Gulf War victory. In September 1993 he celebrated, with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the birth of the battered Oslo Accords. In early 1997 he managed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign the Hebron Accord, which left tens of thousands of Palestinians to the mercy of the students of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba. In late 1998 he was among those who gave birth to the Wye River Memorandum, which died in infancy. In 2000 he was a senior partner to the reverberating failure of American diplomacy in Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And here he is again, this time as U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy responsible for prolonging the death throes of the terminally ill patient known as the peace process.


During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people – in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

So why would someone with such a remarkable history of failure constantly get promoted by each successive administration? Well, because he’s the Lobby’s guy and Israel likes Ross, because while Ross has the President’s ear, they can be sure that no real pressure will be brought to bear on them. It was Ross who thought it would be a great idea to offer Bibi a gift basket of economic aid, security guarantees and God knows what else in return for Bibi doing absolutely nothing. It was Ross who argued that Obama should not put forth his own Mideast peace plan, lest it put Israel on the defensive, and it was Ross who argued that demanding a halt to settlements was a bad idea.

It sort of makes you wonder, which leader does Ross Really serve?

This article on Ross makes clear that the Israel Lobby sees Dennis Ross as an important bulwark against any attempts by the administration to be more of an honest broker:

King Abdullah II of Jordan gave his assessment of how Arabs view the debate within the Obama administration over how far to push Israel on concessions for peace with the Palestinians.

From the State Department, “we get good responses,” the Jordanian king said, according to several people who were in the room. And from the Pentagon, too. “But not from the White House, and we know the reason why is because of Dennis Ross” — President Obama’s chief Middle East adviser.

Mr. Ross, King Abdullah concluded, “is giving wrong advice to the White House.”


During the administration’s debates over the past several months, Mr. Ross made clear that he was opposed to having Mr. Obama push Israel by putting forth a comprehensive American plan for a peace deal with the Palestinians, according to officials involved in the debate.

George J. Mitchell, who was Mr. Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, backed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, argued in favor of a comprehensive American proposal that would include borders, security and the fate of Jerusalem and refugees. But Mr. Ross balked, administration officials said, arguing that it was unwise for the United States to look as if it were publicly breaking with Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu and Israel’s backers in the United States view Mr. Ross as a key to holding at bay what they see as pro-Palestinian sympathies expressed by Mr. Mitchell; Mr. Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; and even the president himself.

“Starting with Mitchell and Jones, there was a preponderance of advisers who were more in tune with the Palestinian narrative than the Israeli narrative,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a friend of Mr. Ross. “Dennis balanced that.”
[emphasis added]

Here we go again. Abe Foxman trying to claim that the administration, State Dept. and National Security Council are somehow bastions of Arabist sympathies when nothing could be further from the truth. Starting in the Clinton administration, the Arabists were purged from holding those lofty positions where they could influence policy in the Middle East and they were replaced with Lobby hacks.

Foxman’s comments are important because not only is he incredibly influential in helping to define the Israeli-Palestinian narrative (albeit a false one) but because he successfully promotes the fixed false belief that Israel should receive the unequivocal, blind support of the US in negotiations despite the huge imbalance of power between the Israelis and Palestinians. Foxman and his friends in the Lobby constantly remind the U.S. government that they better not dare try to be an honest broker or show any sympathy towards the Palestinians. In other words, as far as Foxman (and Ross) are concerned, the role of the U.S. is not that of a mediator, but of an unequivocal advocate for Israel.

People like Ross have no vision, they aren’t willing to think outside the box. They exist to promote the status quo, period, so long as the status quo benefits Israel.

All this is why the the international community should take over the peace process. So long as every U.S. administration has its hands tied by people like Foxman, and so long as members of Congress continue to undermine the administration’s efforts, the peace process is nothing more than a ruse that allows Israel to continue to colonize Palestinian land. So long as the administration is more worried about losing the so-called “Jewish vote,” nothing will be accomplished.

So lets relieve the U.S. of this burden altogether- we simply aren’t up to the task.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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2 Comments on “The Oslo Process is Dead – Israel Killed It, With Some Help from the U.S.”

  1. thainjacobs Says:

    Ross is a waste. I’ve never understood why Obama picked Mitchell as the special envoy only to have that Israel Firster Ross take over and push Mitchell to the sidelines. Mitchell has a proven track record in peace negotiations- look at N. Ireland. How many years was it before peace there? What has Ross accomplished? NOTHING. But they push Mitchell aside and let Ross take over? Great plan, Obama.

    Of course that Politico article you highlighted last week tells us the reason why Obama has Ross- to keep the Jewish community happy.

    I’ve been thinking- what do you wanna bet Ross and his friends were in part behind that article? Who is the ONLY person that comes off looking good in Smith’s article? ROSS. The message that article sends is that the ONLY way to keep the Jewish community voting (and giving $$) to Obama is to keep Ross in a key position and take his advice on Israel. How CONVENIENT for Ross! He’s guaranteed a place at the table.


    • Stacy Says:

      That’s a good point about the Politico article and Ross. You may be on to something. In fact, if you look at most of the articles about the Jewish community and Obama they usually mention Ross as a saving grace. Now I wonder if these are sort of planted articles where Ross or his friends in high places feed these stories to someone compliant in the media, and who better than the non-journalist Ben Smith at Politico?


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