Friday, November 11, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Ross, You Will not be Missed

Of course The New York Times fails to mention that Dennis B. Ross is much despised throughout the Middle East, and is influential only with America's allies. Indeed he was not a broker of peace at all but a tireless supporter of Israeli hegemony and oppression. So goodbye indeed...

Obama’s Influential Mideast Envoy to Resign

By Mark Landler
The New York Times
November 10, 2011

WASHINGTON — Dennis B. Ross, a seasoned diplomat who has been one of President Obama’s most influential advisers on Iran and the Middle East, announced Thursday that he would leave the White House, at a time when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen and tensions over Iran are flaring up anew.

Mr. Ross, who disclosed his departure at a lunch with Jewish leaders, said he promised his wife that he would leave the government after two years. He joined the State Department in February 2009 as a senior adviser on Iran before moving to the National Security Council that June.

“Even by Middle Eastern terms, when you say two years and you’re heading into four, that’s a stretch,” Mr. Ross said in an interview.

His resignation, six months after that of Mr. Obama’s special envoy, George J. Mitchell, leaves the White House with a much-diminished bench on the Middle East, symbolizing how much the peace process has faded since the president proclaimed it would be one of his chief foreign policy goals.

In another part of Mr. Ross’s portfolio, the United States is trying to rally support for new sanctions in the wake of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency asserting that Iran has continued work on a nuclear weapon. Mr. Ross is one of the architects of the pressure campaign against Iran.

“We have done everything we can to recruit and retain Dennis in the government,” said Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser. “He is one of those rare individuals who has global reach.”

A Middle East adviser to five presidents, Mr. Ross, 62, is known for his painstaking approach to diplomacy and longstanding ties to Israeli leaders, which made him a behind-the-scenes interlocutor with Israel but also stood in stark contrast to the bolder instincts and the more distant approach of his boss.

But Mr. Ross’s departure, effective in December, is not a result of disputes over policy, several officials said. He helped formulate Mr. Obama’s most recent proposal to revive peace talks, under which the Israelis and the Palestinians would negotiate the contours of a Palestinian state using the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, adjusted to account for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr. Obama’s proposal failed to break the deadlock, and in September, the Palestinian Authority petitioned the United Nations for membership, against the objections of the United States. In his final months on the job, Mr. Ross made several trips to the West Bank to try to persuade the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, not to go ahead with his campaign.

With President Obama heading into an election year, Middle East experts said there was little incentive for him to thrust himself back into the process. The Republican candidates, sensing an opportunity to make inroads among Jewish voters, have made much of their staunch support for Israel and criticized Mr. Obama for what they characterize as lack of support for a close ally.

“The peace process, the issue Dennis really cares about, has a closed-for-the-season sign on it,” said Aaron David Miller, a former peace negotiator who worked with Mr. Ross in the Clinton administration. “No wonder he’s leaving.”

Mr. Obama’s relations with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have often been rocky, a perception reinforced last week by reports of a private conversation between Mr. Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in which Mr. Sarkozy described Mr. Netanyahu as a “liar,” and Mr. Obama appeared to sympathize.

“You’re tired of him — what about me? I have to deal with him every day,” Mr. Obama replied, according to most accounts of the exchange, which was picked up by microphones and overheard by journalists.

Still, the administration has tightened military cooperation with Israel, a process in which Mr. Ross has been closely involved. He traveled regularly to Israel, meeting with top security advisers to Mr. Netanyahu, like Yitzhak Molcho, whom he has known for decades.

Mr. Ross also played a role in fashioning the American response to the upheaval in Arab countries, where the White House often found itself balancing strategic interests — and authoritarian rulers with whom it had long alliances — with a desire to back the democratic aspirations of young Arab protesters.

Mr. Ross, who has written several books on diplomacy, said he planned to return to his perch at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and pick up his pen. Despite leaving yet another administration without a Middle East peace agreement, Mr. Ross insisted his hopes were not dead.

“Neither one of them can wish each other away,” he said of the Israelis and Palestinians. “They have to live together, there’s no other option, and the only way they can live with each other is a two-state solution.”

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