History Podcasts

Myths, Illusions and Peace By Dennis Ross and David Makovsky - History

Myths, Illusions and Peace By Dennis Ross and David Makovsky - History

reviewed by Marc Schulman

Myths, Illusions, and Peace is an important book, both due to its content and due to the fact that one of the authors is partly responsible for the Obama administration's policies in the Middle East. This book does an excellent job of laying bare the many illusions on the Middle East by various American foreign policy ideologues, both the from "Neo-Conservatives" (such as William Kristol or David Frum) and from the so-called "Realists"(such as John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Zbigniew Brzezinski.) The first Myth the authors tackle is the claim by many there is the clear linkage between the Arab-Israeli conflict and other issues in the Middle East. The authors go through the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and show examined the claims that if the United States helped Israel in any way it would damage its ties with the Arab world. They show how the Arabists in the State Department in 1947-1948 tried to convince President Truman not to support the establishment of the State of Israel, claiming it would destroy US relations with the Arab world. They demolish that myth by showing it had no significant impact on the US relations with the Arab states at that time, especially on relations with the most important state to the United States, Saudi Arabia. They then show that when the United States did come out clearly on the Arab side (under Eisenhower in the Suez crisis), it brought the US no additional support from the Arabs in the Middle East. The authors then give an overview of events surrounding the Six Day War of 1967. They show how the Arabists at the time-pressured US government not to do anything to intervene. They opposed the proposed regatta of ships planned to open the Straits of Tiran. They quote the US Ambassador to Syria, Hugh Smythe stating, "On the scales we have Israel, an unviable client state, whose value to the United States is primarily emotional, balanced with the full range of vital strategic, political commercial/economic." The US did not take any action prior to the war, ignoring the commitment the US made to Israel in 1957, when Israel withdrew from the Sinai, partially in return for US assurances it would open the Straits-- if they were closed.

I could go on just describing this part of the book, but as the authors march through history they show US support for Israel has never effected US Arab relations, and more importantly that the Arab states consistently made decisions based on their own national interests and not as they relate to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, they show American influence in the Arab world actually increased in times when it was more supportive of Israel.

In the next two chapters of the book, the authors deal with the myths about the Arab-Israeli conflict as presented by the realists and neoconservatives. First, they look at the views of the Neo-Conservatives, which they summarize as follows: "The Arabs categorically reject Israel and peace is not possible as a result. " The corollary is that if the Arabs prove themselves (in terms of accepting Israel), then peace can be possible, but until that point, there is no reason for US engagement on peace. Engagement is futile at best and counterproductive at worst, and as a result, disengagement is the right policy prescription. " President Bush embraced this policy. The authors, while agreeing with the concerns of the Neo-conservatives, criticize them for not distinguishing between those in the Arab world who will never accept Israel and those that do. Ross and Makovsky claim there is a large group within the Arab Middle East who will, (under the right circumstances) be willing to make peace, and by not engaging these moderates the US strengthens the extremists.

The Authors then take on the myths of the Realists. The first part of the myth they demolish when they deal with the question of linkage in the first chapter of the book. They then describe the other myths under which the Realists operate: The first is that the Israelis are to blame for the conflict. Second, is that the United States is too close to Israel and that that relationship just serves to exacerbate the situation in the Middle East. According to Ross and Makovsky the first two myths then serve to create a third myth, that only the US would be willing to step in to help to solve the conflict. The authors show, convincingly, how wrong the Realists are. The realists view the notion of the conflict is all Israel's fault is historically inaccurate. They show that while the United States has been an ally of Israel, it consistently played the role of mediator. They demolish the claim of some realists who argues that the US has only played the role of Israel’s representative, instead of that of an independent mediator. The authors give the example of Clinton after Camp David. Clinton went far beyond Israeli positions with his final proposal. It was the Palestinians, of course, who rejected Clinton's proposals. The authors believe sometimes it is not counter-productive to pressure Israel, but they believe context is everything, a factor the Realists ignore. Makovsky and Ross attack the Realists for suggesting that in absence of another Sadat it would be productive to pressure Israel. The authors further go on to say, any amount of pressure will not be enough to bring about peace, unless the parties themselves are ready and their publics are ready as well. They state that while the Israelis have made some progress on understanding what sort of compromises needs to be made to bring about peace, no effort has been made with the Palestinian public to prepare them for any final peace-- that will include compromise on the issue of the refugees. This dovetails with an interview I heard the other day with Dan Meridor, where first Meridor was asked how come he, who always believed there was no need to divide the land, was now proposing just that. He answered that he realized there was no way Israelis and Palestinians could live together in one state, and if the land were not divided they (the Palestinians) would eventually be the majority. The interviewer then asked him what was the major item standing in the way of an agreement. Meridor stated it was the inability of the Palestinians to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state (the shorthand for that is their unwillingness to agree to anything less than a return of the refugees, to inside of Israel, which would effectively mean the end of Israel.)

So, what do the authors recommend? Interestingly, what they recommend is very much of what is happening. They believe in incremental steps. Ross and Makovsky believe there is a need to show both sides the advantages of peace. For the Palestinians, they believe additional economic development, coupled with a possible halt to settlement activity can combine to show them the road to peace is not only possible but preferable. For the Israelis, a beefed up Palestinian security force, who truly take actions against potential terrorists would help. This will show Israelis that giving up more land is not national suicide. After all of these steps happen, the authors believe it will be possible to discuss core issues. One of the authors’ best insights is: No political leader is likely to take on history and mythology on such core issues as Jerusalem the refugees if he or she believes the public will reject it when they do. Clearly, from the Israelis point of view the second Intifada the Second Lebanon War and the Qassam rockets from Gaza convinced many there is no partner for peace. From the Palestinian perspective, the continued growth of settlements, combined with numerous Israeli checkpoints they have to deal with have soured many Palestinians on the chance for peace and statehood.

Interestingly, in the past six months since their book was released much of what they recommended has taken place. The authors recommend a continuation of the current strategy of isolating Hamas, and while letting the West Bank bloom. They believe that strategy will create fissures in Hamas and will result in its weakening. They warn, however, that Hamas will not stand idly by while this happens. Makovsky and Ross devote a separate chapter to taking on the “Realists” for their views on engaging Hamas and Hezbollah. Makovsky and Ross reject the idea promoted by the Realists that you can moderate the behavior of Hamas by negotiating with them. The authors posit that the Realists do not distinguish enough between state and non-state actors. States are ultimately responsible for their actions; while with non-state actors have no real address. More importantly, they attack the Realists for believing Hamas and Hezbollah do not really believe in their ideology and that they are like any other group who can be influenced by real-world practical events. The strongest argument they give in attacking the Realist position is Hamas' refusal to accept the terms of the Quartet, which would allow the blockade to be lifted. Their ideology stood four squares in their way and they could not do it. As a result, the Quartet and most of the rest of the world continues to isolate Hamas, something, by the way, the realists claimed would not happen. The authors, furthermore, state that engaging Hamas and Hezbollah without extracting a change in their behavior, in advance, would be very detrimental to the peace process.

The authors devote a full chapter to how to deal with Iran; which is both the most and least relevant chapter in the book. It's relevant because Ross is responsible for the Iran policy in the White House. However, it is somewhat irrelevant, since the authors (like everyone else) did not anticipate the elections and near revolt in Iran. The authors attack both the Neo-conservatives who believe that only regime change will work and any negotiations are pointless; and the Realists, who believe that if we were willing to negotiate with Iran we would solve all our problems with Iran. The Neo-cons, Ross believes, seem to have an almost irrational belief that, in time, regime change will successfully take place. Unfortunately, as they wait, Iran continues down its path towards developing nuclear weapons. The Realists, on the other hand, seem to ignore the ideological and religious basis for fundamentalist rule in Iran. They assume the Iranians are no different than Soviets were during the Cold war. They ignore, however, that there is a real difference between political ideology and religious ideology. The authors recommend a hybrid policy going forward with Iran, engagement, while at the same time ratcheting up pressure and sanctions on Iran. While this may have been a good plan six months ago, today in the aftermath of the elections and subsequent unrest, the Iranian regime seems unwilling to engage the US. Even more importantly, it would be very difficult for the US to engage the current Iranian government, thus undermining the dissidents. The problem, of course, is that as I write this the Iranian centrifuges continue to turn.

I conclude this review as I began– this is an important book that should be read.

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Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions, and Peace

Het vredesproces tussen Israël en de Palestijnen zit weer muurvast. De Israëlische regering wil onderhandelingen hervatten, maar de Palestijnen vinden dat Israël eerst aan een aantal voorwaarden moet voldoen. De Amerikaanse president Barack Obama zal mogelijk in september een nieuw vredesinitiatief lanceren. Vredeskansen in het Midden-Oosten blijven namelijk bestaan, mits de juiste koers wordt gevolgd, zeggen twee Amerikaanse analisten.

Er bestaan mogelijkheden om vrede te stichten, stellen diplomaat Dennis Ross en Midden-Oostenspecialist David Makovsky. Ross was de belangrijkste Amerikaanse afgezant bij de vredesbesprekingen onder de presidenten George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) en Bill Clinton (1993-2001). Hij schreef samen met David Makovsky van het Washington Instituut voor Nabije Oostenpolitiek een boek over de vredesonderhandelingen. Ze analyseren daarin uitgebreid de fouten die in het verleden zijn gemaakt en de kansen die de Israëliërs en de Palestijnen vandaag met Amerikaanse hulp hebben.

Dat onderhandelingen stilliggen is sinds de vredesconferentie in Madrid achttien jaar geleden meerdere malen gebeurd. Maar ze zijn altijd weer hervat. Mogelijk lukt het Obama nu het gestrande schip vlot te trekken.

De auteurs beseffen dat de taak van Washington niet eenvoudig is. Zowel aan Israëlische als aan Palestijnse zijde leeft er wantrouwen over de motieven van de VS. Arabieren geloven dat de Israëlische lobby in Washington een enorme invloed uitoefent. Israëliërs denken dat de VS het de Arabieren naar de zin willen maken vanwege de oliebelangen. Zeker na de speech van president Obama in Caïro op 4 juni is deze bewering veel te horen.

Het grootste obstakel is ongeloof bij de bevolking. Het publiek aan beide kanten is het vertrouwen in de andere partij kwijt. Bij de Israëliërs groeide het pessimisme omdat terugtrekking uit de Palestijnse gebieden en Libanon niet tot rust en vrede, maar tot toename van terreur en beschietingen leidde. De Palestijnen hoopten dat de Osloakkoorden zouden leiden tot het einde van de Israëlische aanwezigheid in hun woongebied. Maar de lasten die ”de bezetting” met zich meebracht, gingen juist zwaarder wegen. De Joodse nederzettingen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever zijn drastisch uitgebreid. “Het gevoel te zijn verraden is aan de Palestijnse zijde even groot als aan de Israëlische kant”, concluderen Ross en Makovsky.

Ondanks de hindernissen werd de kloof bij vorige onderhandelingen al verkleind. Over kwesties zoals milieu en gezondheidszorg en mogelijk ook over de nederzettingenblokken zijn de verschillen niet groot meer. Israël wenst deze dorpen te annexeren in het kader van een overeengekomen landruil. Maar de partijen liggen nog ver uit elkaar wat betreft veiligheidsmaatregelen die na een Israëlische terugtrekking genomen moeten worden, het recht van terugkeer van Palestijnse vluchtelingen en de status van de stad Jeruzalem.

De auteurs gaan in hun boek ook in op de fouten die eerdere politici hebben gemaakt. Ze bespreken twee denkscholen: die van de neoconservatieven (neocons) en de realisten. De tot de Republikeinen behorende neocons geloven dat Amerikaanse bemoeienis met het conflict verspilde energie is, omdat de Arabieren Israël niet aanvaarden. Witte Huispersvoorlichter Arie Fleischer dacht zelfs dat werken aan een oplossing voor het conflict geweld voortbracht.

Neocons geloven dat de belangrijkste Palestijnse partij, Fatah, nog steeds het plan heeft om Israël stukje voor stukje te laten verdwijnen. Maar als dat zo was, dan had PLO-leider Yasser Arafat het vredesplan van Bill Clinton van januari 2001 aangenomen. Dat plan beoogde een Palestijnse staat op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en op de Gazastrook.

De manier van denken bij de neocons brengt cynisme met zich mee. Als neocons over het vredesproces praten, zeggen ze soms “het zogenaamde vredesproces” of ze zetten het woord tussen aanhalingstekens. Het gevolg is dat de Amerikanen hun handen ervan aftrekken.

Alles op zijn beloop laten is namelijk gevaarlijk. Amerikaanse onverschilligheid creëert boosheid in de Arabische straten. Bovendien is stilstand slecht voor Israël: dat land dreigt zijn karakter als Joodse staat te verliezen en langzaam maar zeker te veranderen in een staat voor twee volken, het Joodse en Palestijnse.

De zich in de Democratische Partij bevindende realisten slaan in tegenovergestelde richting door, vinden Ross en Makovsky. Veel Democraten geloven dat vooral Israël de schuld heeft van het conflict. Het gevolg is dat Israël concessies moet doen, zonder dat de Arabische landen daar iets bijzonders tegenover hoeven te stellen. Op deze manier wordt de Arabische overtuiging versterkt dat de sores in het Midden-Oosten allemaal op het conto van Israël geschreven kunnen worden. Israël loopt zo het risico zoiets concreet als land op te geven voor een vage belofte over vrede in de verre toekomst.

Maar van de Arabische landen mag bijvoorbeeld worden verwacht dat hun houding tegenover Israël verandert. Een dag voordat de Arabische Liga in maart 2002 in de Libanese hoofdstad Beiroet het Saudi¡vredesplan lanceerde, explodeerde er op seideravond een zware bom in het Park Hotel in Netanya. De liga veroordeelde het bloedbad niet. Momenteel zouden Arabische landen in ruil voor bevriezing van Joodse nederzettingen Israël het recht kunnen geven het luchtruim te gebruiken voor passagiersvliegtuigen.

Realisten denken ook dat het Israëlisch-Palestijnse conflict de kern is van het probleem. Als dit conflict wordt opgelost, zullen ook andere conflicten in het Midden-Oosten verdwijnen. De auteurs achten in dit verband dat de realisten zeer onrealistisch en spreken over “de moeder van alle mythes.” Ze doen hun best dit idee te weerleggen, dat ook in Europa veel voorkomt.

Tot de realistische school behoren onder anderen de Amerikanen John Maersheimer en Stephen Walt. Zij schreven in hun omstreden boek over de vermeende rol van de Israëllobby in Washington dat de belangen van de VS in de Arabische landen liggen. De band tussen Israël en de VS zou goede relaties met de Arabische wereld in de weg staan.

De Amerikaanse buitenlandse politiek is echter niet alleen gebaseerd op (verschillende) belangen. Ook de gemeenschappelijke overtuigingen spelen een rol. Daartoe behoort de overtuiging dat het land Israël het beloofde land is voor de Joden, dat de Joden het recht hebben op een veilig thuisland en dat Israël als democratisch land ondersteuning verdient.

Goede betrekkingen met Israël hoeven geen belemmering te zijn voor goede relaties met Arabische landen. Het bondgenootschap werkt ook als afschrikmiddel. De vermoorde Egyptische president Anwar Sadat zag de Amerikaans-Israëlische relatie als een reden om vrede te sluiten. Hij zei dat hij tegen Israël kon strijden, maar niet tegen Amerika.

Als Amerika Israël laat vallen, heeft dat een negatieve invloed op de geloofwaardigheid van de VS. Andere landen kunnen er niet meer zeker van zijn dat de Amerikaanse steun blijft, als belangen veranderen. Iran zal het isolement van Israël bovendien als een verzwakking van de Amerikaanse macht in het Midden-Oosten beschouwen. Israël loslaten is winst voor de antiwesterse, extremistische krachten in het Midden-Oosten.

Gedreven door de leus “Je maakt vrede met je vijanden”, zoeken realisten contact met radicaalislamitische groepen zoals Hamas en Hezbollah. De nationale¡veiligheidsadviseur van Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1977-1981), meende dat achter elke terreurdaad een politiek motief steekt. Amerika moet dus met iedereen praten.

Ross en Makovsky verwerpen het argument dat westerse politici met Hamas en Hezbollah moeten spreken omdat ze nu eenmaal gekozen zijn en veel steun genieten. De Britse oud-premier Tony Blair wees er in 2002 in verband met de verkiezing van Yasser Arafat al op dat Palestijnen kunnen kiezen wat ze willen, maar dat de internationale gemeenschap geen tijd moet verspillen met individuen die niet geïnteresseerd zijn in vrede. De diplomatie met Hamas en Hezbollah is een doodlopende weg.

Realisten onderschatten de ideologische oppositie tegen Israëls bestaan, die wijdverbreid is. Door aan te pappen met de meest radicale groepen in het Midden-Oosten verzwakken ze de positie van de gematigde Arabische leiders, met wie wel vrede te bereiken is.

De juiste houding is volgens Ross en Makovsky betrokkenheid op degenen die vrede willen bereiken. De Israëlische premier Netanyahu en de Palestijnse president Abbas hebben een gemeenschappelijk belang, namelijk oplossing van het conflict.

De regering-Obama moet de fouten zien te vermijden die de neocons en de realisten hebben gemaakt. Met groepen zoals Hamas en Hezbollah zal de serieuze diplomaat geen tijd verspillen. Van Israël mogen concessies worden gevraagd, maar deze moeten hun weerklank vinden in concrete stappen van de Arabische kant. Met kundige Amerikaanse hulp en bereidwilligheid aan Israëlische en Arabische kant ontstaan er nieuwe kansen op vrede in het Midden-Oosten. Misschien is het de laatste kans om tot een tweestatenoplossing te komen.



During President Jimmy Carter's administration, Ross worked under Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon. There he co-authored a study recommending greater U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf region "because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab–Israeli conflict." [5] During the Reagan administration, Ross served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs in the National Security Council and Deputy Director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment (1982󈟀). [4]

Ross returned briefly to academia in the 1980s, serving as executive director of the Berkeley-Stanford program on Soviet international behavior from 1984 to 1986. [4]

In the administration of President George H. W. Bush, Ross was director of the United States State Department's Policy Planning Staff, working on U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control, and the 1991 Gulf War. [4] He also worked with Secretary of State James Baker on convincing Arab and Israeli leaders to attend the 1991 Middle East peace conference in Madrid, Spain. [3]

Middle East envoy

Although Ross had worked for outgoing Republican President Bush (even assisting in his re-election effort), incoming Democratic Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked Ross to stay on for a short time to help with early Middle Eastern policy in the new administration. [6] In the summer of 1993 President Bill Clinton named Ross Middle East envoy. He helped the Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and brokered the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron in 1997. He facilitated the Israel–Jordan peace treaty and also worked on talks between Israel and Syria. [4]

Ross headed a team of several people in the Office of the Special Middle East Coordinator, including his deputy Aaron David Miller, Robert Malley, Jon Schwarz, Gamal Helal, and Daniel Kurtzer (until 1994). Ross, consulting his team, drew up the Clinton Parameters as a bridging solution to save the Israeli–Palestinian negotiations in December 2000. [7]

Ross was criticized by people on both sides of the conflict. Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath described him as being more "pro-Israeli than the Israelis." [8] Occasional references to his Jewish ancestry were brought up within the Arab world (although Ross maintains this was not a problem with other heads of state during negotiations), while some conservative Israelis branded him "self-hating"—each questioning his ability to be unbiased, [9] [10] though Palestinians involved in the negotiation process would insist that his perceived lack of objectivity had little to do with his religion. [11] Describing Ross, Roger Cohen wrote that "Balance is something this meticulous diplomat [Ross] prizes. But a recurrent issue with Ross, who embraced the Jewish faith after being raised in a non-religious home by a Jewish mother and Catholic stepfather, has been asked whether he is too close to the American Jewish community and Israel to be an honest broker with Iran or Arabs. Aaron David Miller, after years of working with Ross, concluded in a book that he 'had an inherent tendency to see the world of Arab–Israeli politics first from Israel's vantage point rather than that of the Palestinians.' Another former senior State Department official, who requested anonymity . told me, "Ross's bad habit is pre-consultation with the Israelis." [12]

Post–Clinton-era activities

After leaving his position as envoy, Ross returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow. He became chair of the Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, funded and founded by the Jewish Agency in 2002. [13]

During these years he taught classes at Marquette University, Brandeis University, Georgetown University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University." [3] He also wrote frequently for publications like The Washington Post , The New York Times , The Jerusalem Post , The New Republic , USA Today , and The Wall Street Journal and worked as a foreign affairs analyst for the Fox News channel. [14]

Ross was a noted supporter of the Iraq war and he signed two Project for a New American Century (PNAC) letters in support of the war in March 2003. [15] However, he opposed some of the Bush Administration's policies for post-war reconstruction. [16] He also opposed Bush's policy of avoiding direct talks with Iran. [3]

Obama Administration positions

According to The Wall Street Journal, Ross, along with James Steinberg and Daniel Kurtzer, were among the principal authors of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama's address on the Middle East to AIPAC in June 2008. [17] It was viewed as the Democratic nominee's most expansive on international affairs. [18]

Ross was appointed Special Advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on February 23, 2009. [19] On June 25, 2009 the White House announced that Ross was leaving the State Department to join the National Security Council staff as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, with overall responsibility for the region. The Central Region includes the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia. [20]

Haaretz reported that Ross's work as a Middle East aide in the Obama administration was burdened by tension with special envoy George Mitchell, to the point that Ross and Mitchell sometimes refused to speak to each other. This report indicated that the tension was caused, at least in part, by Ross's occasional efforts to conduct negotiations with Israeli government officials without notifying Mitchell. For example, in both September and November 2010, Ross was said to have tried to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction during negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority, in exchange for unspecified private assurances and a major military arms transfer from the United States. [21]

Palestinian officials reportedly viewed Ross as beholden to the Israeli government, and not as an honest broker or even-handed facilitator of negotiations. For a significant period, Ross refrained from meeting Palestinian Authority officials, while continuing to hold talks with Israeli officials during his visits to the region. [21]

On November 10, 2011, Ross stepped down from his post in the Obama administration. [22] He rejoined The Washington Institute as William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, Counselor, Irwin Levy Family Program on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship. He currently serves on the advisory board for the non-profit America Abroad Media. [23] In 2006, he taught at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service as a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy. [24]

Myths, Illusions, and Peace

Category: World Politics | Middle Eastern World History

Category: World Politics | Middle Eastern World History

May 25, 2010 | ISBN 9780143117698 | 5-1/2 x 8-7/16 --> | ISBN 9780143117698 --> Buy

Jun 11, 2009 | ISBN 9781101081877 | ISBN 9781101081877 --> Buy


May 25, 2010 | ISBN 9780143117698


Jun 11, 2009 | ISBN 9781101081877

Buy the Ebook:

About Myths, Illusions, and Peace

“A trenchant and often pugnacious demolition of the numerous misconceptions about strategic thinking on the Middle East”
The New York Times

Now updated with a new chapter on the current climate, Myths, Illusions, and Peace addresses why the United States has consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East. According to Dennis Ross-special advisor to President Obama and senior director at the National Security Council for that region-and policy analyst David Makovsky, it is because we have repeatedly fallen prey to dangerous myths about this part of the world-myths with roots that reach back decades yet persist today. Clearly articulated and accessible, Myths, Illusions, and Peace captures the real­ity of the problems in the Middle East like no book has before. It presents a concise and far-reaching set of principles that will help America set an effective course of action in the region, and in so doing secure a safer future for all Americans.

About Myths, Illusions, and Peace

“A trenchant and often pugnacious demolition of the numerous misconceptions about strategic thinking on the Middle East”
The New York Times

Now updated with a new chapter on the current climate, Myths, Illusions, and Peace addresses why the United States has consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East. According to Dennis Ross-special advisor to President Obama and senior director at the National Security Council for that region-and policy analyst David Makovsky, it is because we have repeatedly fallen prey to dangerous myths about this part of the world-myths with roots that reach back decades yet persist today. Clearly articulated and accessible, Myths, Illusions, and Peace captures the real­ity of the problems in the Middle East like no book has before. It presents a concise and far-reaching set of principles that will help America set an effective course of action in the region, and in so doing secure a safer future for all Americans.

BICOM Analysis: Israel’s strategic value to the US

In an effort to contain the diplomatic tension that has arisen owing to an Israeli plan to construct 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, US President Barack Obama said last Wednesday that there is no crisis between the US and Israel. Nonetheless, Israel’s strategic importance to the US has been questioned in some recent headlines. This has intensified following a statement given by US General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), on 16 March to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He stated that perceived US “favouritism” for Israel fuels anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, has undermined US relations with Arab states and peoples, and is exploited by militant Islamist groups. He further asserted that a credible US effort on the Arab-Israeli peace process, “would undercut Iran’s policy of militant ‘resistance’, which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit”.

This analysis looks at the broader context of the debate about the regional dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the enduring strategic importance of Israel for US and Western interests.

Context and historical background

US-Israeli ties have developed into a unique, complex and deeply rooted relationship over recent decades. At the same time, there have also been long-standing differences over certain policy issues, including the issue of settlements.

The Arab world has always accused the US of “favouritism” for Israel, even when Washington overwhelmingly saw Israel as a strategic hindrance throughout the early Cold War years. Ever since Israel’s establishment in 1948, there have been voices within the US administration, as in Britain, warning that support for Israel undermines more important relations that the US has with the oil-rich Arab world.

Currently there is an added sensitivity in Washington to the question of US support for Israel. The Obama administration is determined to change America’s image in the Islamic world as part of its strategy to counter the spread of radical Islamist anti-Western sentiment. This is a high priority in light of the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ongoing controversy over ‘linkage’

The Obama administration entered office with bold ambitions in the Middle East. There was a determination to pursue peace both for its own sake and as part of a deep desire to renew relations with the Islamic world. The current administration has been more willing than the Bush administration to link the issues of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and countering anti-Western radicalism in the region.

Whilst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict undoubtedly resonates in the region, the link between the conflict and other problems in the region has frequently been exaggerated.

In their 2009 book, Myths, Illusions and Peace, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky describe the belief that solving the Arab-Israeli conflict is a prerequisite to addressing the problems of the region as the ‘myth of linkage’. They argue that this is view typically promoted by Arab leaders to avoid taking responsibility for their own failures in bringing about political and economic development.

There are many conflicts, rivalries and issues creating instability in the region which are not connected to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and domination over its gulf Arab neighbours, internal division in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, and the struggle between secular nationalists and Islamists, all hamper development in the region. Past UN Human Development Reports have stressed that lack of freedom, education and female participation in political and economic life are deep lying causes of social and political malaise which have nothing to do with Israel.

Jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda may exploit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to rally Muslims to their radical anti-Western cause. But the anti-Western sentiment of Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups in the region is rooted in their rejection of Western values and ideals, rather than any specific grievances against Western policies. Israeli leaders and others have long argued that Israel is hated by radical Islamists precisely because it represents the Western values of freedom and democracy that they despise.

Many Western leaders see promoting the peace process as in Western interests to undermine the efforts of radicals and win support for their anti-Western agenda. This does not create an inherent conflict of interest between Israel and the US. Most Israelis recognise peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Arab world to be in Israel’s own clear national interest.

But as Ross and Makovsky argue, it does not follow that peace can be achieved just by pressuring Israel. Both sides have to make difficult compromises to achieve peace. The last year has shown how the international approach needs to be balanced in order to make progress. The heavy demands made by the US on Israel encouraged the Palestinians and Arab states to adopt an uncompromising stance. Following Obama’s visit to Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh and his diplomatic outreach to Morocco and elsewhere, the administration has been disappointed not to have witnessed any sign from within the Arab world of willingness to normalise relations with Israel.

Israel’s value as an ally

The US-Israeli relationship continues to be beneficial for both countries, as well as for the West in general and for many of its Arab allies, as a strategic counterweight to radicalism. Of America’s three key strategic allies in the region, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Israel is the most reliable partner in containing Iranian backed anti-Western forces including Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. These radical forces present a direct threat not only to US regional interests and Israel but also to pro-Western Arab players.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states all fear Iran – as well as local and global Islamist movements with popular support. Israel is an asset not only to the West, but for these other pro-Western states in the region. There is currently an unparalleled confluence of interests between Israel and Western-orientated Arab states. When Israel confronted Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006, pro-Western Arab states were privately supportive of Israel’s efforts to blunt the threat posed by a dangerous pro-Iranian militia. Egypt has been explicit in the past year about the direct threat both Hamas and Hezbollah pose to its own security. This also explains why there was no united Arab front criticising Israel during Operation Cast Lead.

Strategic cooperation between Israel and the US, especially in terms of intelligence exchanges, has taken on a new meaning in the face of unprecedented counterterrorist and counter-proliferation challenges. Israel has also proved to be an asset through its reported military actions, such as the bombing in September 2007 of a Syrian plutonium reactor near the town of al-Kibar, attributed to Israeli forces. Had this nuclear plant, developed clandestinely with North Korea, been completed, it would have presented a severe security crisis for Israel, the Arab world, Europe and the US.

But the strategic dimension does not fully account for the nature of the US-Israeli relationship. There is also an affinity of values, beyond “national interests”, underpinning the relationship. Even as the administration is frustrated at the Israeli government, Obama has spoken of the “special bond” between the two peoples. Israel stands out in the region as a pluralist, Western-oriented democracy with an open and hugely innovative economy, which is very appealing to the values of freedom and liberty to which America is committed. Americans also feel a connection to the notion of Jewish sovereignty in Israel, especially after the horrors of the Holocaust. Whilst the importance of other regional allies of the US is undisputed, America still relates to Israel in a unique way.

The reason that the US has invested for so long in its strategic relationship with Israel is because this benefits the United States and the West. Like all healthy relationships there can be strong disagreements at times, but that does not undermine a relationship based on convergent strategic interests and shared values. It is right for all states to constantly re-evaluate strategic relationships, but it remains clear, despite ongoing disagreements, that Israel provides a unique prop for US and Western interests in the region that cannot be replaced by its other strategic allies. The threat of radical Islamism is faced by the West, Israel, and Western-orientated Arab states together. Al Qaeda and their supporters are ideologically opposed to Western values, and oppose Israel’s existence because it represents those values. Such groups will continue to promote hatred of Israel and the West regardless of what happens in the peace process.


Ambassador Dennis Ross, a former U.S. diplomat with close ties to Israel and neoconservatives in the United States, served as a senior adviser on Middle East issues in the Barack Obama administration’s National Security Council. He also served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, assisting in negotiations on Middle East peace and other foreign policy issues.

Since stepping down from his post in the Obama administration in 2011, Ross has been based at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)—a think tank created by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee[1]—where he worked prior to joining the administration.[2] During this time, Ross has focused much of his attention on Iran, advocating a range of confrontational U.S. measures to counter Iran’s regional ambitions. In February 2018, he accused the Donald Trump administration of being “all talk on Iran,” writing that “If the United States wants the Israelis and Saudis to feel like they are less on their own, and that they don’t need to preempt perceived threats, the Trump administration needs to understand the limits of rhetoric and symbolism—and the power of action.”[3]

Ross has called on the Trump administration to push Europe into confronting Russia in Syria. “Of course, the U.S. can make it more likely that Putin will decide it is in Russia’s interest to step up by conveying a long overdue message: If Russia will not act to contain the Iranian presence, the U.S. will no longer sit on the sidelines as the Iranians continue their expansion,” Ross wrote. “To underline the message, the Trump administration should be reaching out diplomatically to the Europeans as well. They can go directly to the Iranians and say if their expansion continues in Syria, the EU will have little choice but to impose new sanctions on the Iranians for their de-stabilizing actions there.”[4]

Ross has been a key contributor to the work of many advocacy groups and think tanks that are tied to hawkish “pro-Israel” or neoconservative factions in the United States. He has been a member of the board of editors of the Middle East Quarterly, published by Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum he was a letter signatory for the now-defunct neoconservative pressure group the Project for the New American Century, which helped build public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq he helped found the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran and he has teamed up with ideologues from organizations like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to craft policy approaches toward Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues in the region.[5] Ross is also the co-chairman of the Iran Task Force of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), an advocacy group that promotes relations between the U.S. and Israeli militaries and has been sharply critical of the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran.[6]

Despite Ross’s track record, some observers do not consider him to be a one-sided hawk. For instance, he was invited to speak at the 2011 conference for the group J Street[7], which lobbies in Washington for a sustainable two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and strongly supported the Iran nuclear deal. While his appearance was criticized even at the conference itself, his speech drew some applause. His ability to reach into more dovish sectors of the American Jewish community and his history of high-level positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations give Ross the sheen of a centrist despite his close affiliation with right-wing and neoconservative groups.

Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal: From Obama to Trump

Shortly after stepping down from the Obama administration, Ross began publishing articles from his perch at WINEP addressing a number of issues that had been in his portfolio under Obama, including most notably Iran. In a December 2011 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Ross argued that the Obama administration needed to step up pressure on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Pushing back against arguments that containment and assured retaliation would deter Iran from ever using a nuclear weapon—in part because of Israel’s substantial though officially unrecognized nuclear arsenal—Ross painted a dire picture of the future of Middle East politics if Tehran developed the bomb. “[N]early all of its neighbors,” he wrote, “will seek [nuclear weapons] as well to counter Iranian power and coercion. Israel, given Iranian declarations that it should be wiped off the map, will feel it has no margin for error and cannot afford to strike second in the event of a war. But Israel won’t be the only country operating on a hair trigger. Each country, lacking the ability to absorb a nuclear strike, will adopt a launch-on-warning posture in a region that has many local triggers for conflict and enormous potential for miscalculation. Containment does not address that risk.”[8]

Ross expressed tentative optimism that renewed talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers in late 2013 and early 2014 could yield results—but only if the United States maintained an aggressive posture. “For the first time,” wrote Ross with Eric Edelman and Michael Makovsky in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “Tehran presented an actual vision of the endgame for the talks with six world powers, and how to get there. However, contrary to expectations, it offered no concessions, leaving serious questions about Iranian purposes.” Warning that Iran could use the negotiations “to extract concessions, undermine international resolve, and play for time,” Ross and his coauthors recommended that Washington “Intensify sanctions and incentivize other countries to do the same, issue more forceful and credible statements that all options are on the table, initiate new military deployments, and make clear the support for Israeli military action if conducted”—all actions that could tank the negotiations completely.[9]

“Reading this piece,” Philip Weiss wrote, “it is astounding to consider that Ross was once the nerve center inside Democratic administrations, including Obama’s, for making American policy on the Middle East. Ross couldn’t be a more fervent advocate for the Israeli position. He says that Iran can’t be trusted and that preventing a nuclear-capable Iran is ‘the most pressing national security threat facing the United States’ he repeatedly calls for threats of military action and overlooks Israel’s own nuclear arsenal while criticizing Iran for threatening the international ‘nonproliferation’ regime. … No wonder that as a negotiator Ross was called Israel’s lawyer.”[10]

Although Ross expressed impatience with an incremental approach to diplomacy with Iran, he has also grudgingly accepted Iran’s right to have a civilian nuclear program. He advocated for the Obama administration to present the Iranians with an ultimatum, which he called an “endgame approach.” In a May 2013 Washington Post op-ed, Ross and frequent WINEP collaborator David Makovsky declared that “the United States needs to establish greater clarity about what we can and cannot live with regarding Iran’s nuclear program and give further credence to the administration’s statements that the time for diplomacy is running out.” The Obama administration, they said, should offer the Iranians “the opportunity to have civil nuclear capability” in exchange for strict caps on enrichment and a robust enforcement regime. If the Iranians refuse, the authors claimed, “their real aims of acquiring nuclear weapons would be revealed. In such circumstances, the United States would be far better positioned to make the case to the international community that military action is warranted.”[11]

“These ideas,” wrote Ali Gharib for the Daily Beast, “suffer most from their own premises and assumptions”—namely that most Iran experts agree that not only would U.S. military action be unlikely to erase Iran’s alleged nuclear capability, it would harden the resolve of Iran’s leaders to develop nuclear weapons. The result, “would be either perpetual war—’mowing the lawn,’ as the Israeli euphemism has it—or invading and occupying Iran.” Gharib also pointed out that “an incremental step toward a broader agreement,” which Ross and Makovsky dismissed out of hand, “might be necessary exactly because…there is a tremendous lack of confidence between the two sides,” especially with leading congressional hawks committed to “putting the kibosh on diplomacy.” Opining that the two authors were offering what amounted to a threat of war cloaked in reasonable-sounding language, Gharib concluded, “Ross and Makovsky proffer a deadline exactly as the missing ingredient to striking a deal. When it does not get made, we will be at war.”[12]

Ross expressed skepticism regarding the June 2013 election of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who has advocated improved relations with the West. Dismissing analysts who argued that the United States should offer the new Iranian president an olive branch to jumpstart negotiations, Ross wrote in the New York Times that “it would be foolish to think that lifting the pressure now would improve the chances that he would be allowed to offer us what we need: an agreement, or credible Iranian steps toward one, under which Iran would comply with its international obligations on the nuclear issue.” Ross went on to advocate offering Rouhani the same ultimatum he had argued for previously.[13]

Some experts disagreed with this approach. Continuing with “threats of war and international economic sanctions will not provide Rouhani with the cover for a fresh approach to nuclear talks, and it could undermine the reformists generally by showing they cannot do better than conservatives on the nuclear issue,” according to Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Senior Fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institute, [14] National Interest writer and former CIA analyst Paul Pillar added, “The Iranian electorate has in effect said to the United States and its Western partners, ‘We’ve done all we can. Among the options that the Guardian Council gave us, we have chosen the one that offers to get us closest to accommodation, agreement and understanding with the West. Your move, America.'”[15]

Noting that Ross had earlier predicted that Iran’s Supreme Leader would never “allow” the moderate Rouhani to win, journalist Jim Lobe quipped, “In light of Ross’s previous assessments regarding how the supreme leader signals his intentions on nuclear negotiations, would it be unreasonable to expect that Ross would not only be somewhat humbler with respect to his understanding of Iranian politics, but also rather hopeful about prospects for a real deal? … The answer is not really.”[16]

Soon after Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, Ross—along with WINEP Colleague, Andrew Tabler—wrote that the new president should dive into the Syrian maelstrom, sharply confronting Iran and Russia in the process.[17] Only a few days after the election, Ross spoke at a WINEP roundtable event, saying, “[G]iven the region’s current situation—the Palestinians more divided than ever, the Iranians bent on regional expansion, and the Saudis in the midst of a “revolution disguised as economic reform”—our historical allies in Israel and the Sunni Arab countries need a strong America now more than ever.” Only a little over a year later, Ross sharply changed his tone on Saudi Arabia, embracing Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman’s (Often referred to as MBS) “reforms” in a fawning op-ed, where he argued, “MBS is a Saudi revolutionary, and the success of his policies will be felt not just in Saudi Arabia. So would their failure.”[18]

Ross has praised Trump’s words but criticized his actions. In Foreign Policy, Ross wrote, “If the United States wants the Israelis and Saudis to feel like they are less on their own, and that they don’t need to preempt perceived threats, the Trump administration needs to understand the limits of rhetoric and symbolism—and the power of action.”[19]

Doubling down after a brief flare-up in the Israeli-Iranian confrontation in February 2018, Ross wrote, “Policy makers don’t often get crystallizing moments that tell them action is required to avert bigger dangers. But Iran’s attempted attack and Israel’s response is such a moment and the administration would be wise to mobilize a wide diplomatic response before the next shoe falls.” That diplomacy, Ross suggested, should translate into convincing the European Union to warn Iran that its continued presence in Syria could result in sanctions, a prospect unlikely to be welcomed by Europe.[20]

Ross has made the case that the Trump administration’s disdain for working on regional strategies and initiatives with European and Arab partners and coordinating efforts is unwise. Yet even there, Ross falls into his familiar habits when discussing specifics. “Given the challenges in the Middle East, the Trump administration needs partners,” Ross wrote in The Hill. “Working with the Europeans and our Arab friends is essential if we are to counter destabilizing Iranian activities and guard against the emergence of a radical ISIS successor. Managing the JCPOA on one hand, and ending the impasse involving the boycott of Qatar on the other, offer a basis on which to achieve our critical goals in the region.”[21]

Ross’s history of government service under both Democrat and Republican presidents lends his views a credibility they might not otherwise have attained. The view of him as a diplomat and peacemaker, as the caretaker of the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, often identifies him much more strongly than the hawkish policies he promotes.[22]

Promoting the Threat of U.S. Military Action in the Middle East

Ross has long advocated leveraging the threat of U.S. military action to achieve policy aims in the the Middle East, particularly with respect to Iran in order to exact concessions over its nuclear enrichment program. Spurred by his criticism of the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1, Ross wrote in the Washington Post that “the Iranians must believe that any such move will trigger the use of force—anything less, once they have threshold status, and Iran will know that it can confront the world with a nuclear weapons fait accompli at a time of its choosing.”[23]

As co-chairman of the JINSA Iran Task Force, Ross co-authored a July 2014 JINSA report, which stated that “U.S. diplomatic engagement” with Iran “must be accompanied by greater pressure.”[24] The report, co-written with fellow Iran-hawks Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh, was criticized by some observers for providing recommendations that “do not seem to be designed to maximize America’s interests, but rather Israel’s.”[25]As Iran and the P5+1 appeared close to reaching a political framework agreement over Iran’s nuclear program in March 2015, Ross argued in a Washington Post op-ed that Congress should pass legislation that threatens “the use of force” against Iran if it makes a “dash toward weapons-grade production” in its nuclear program. “Incorporating these measures in legislation would send a clear signal and demonstrate that the president and Congress are unified on this issue,” he claimed.[26]

Ross also supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress in March 2015, saying at the time that Netanyahu offered “the alternative of insisting on better terms and increasing pressure on the Iranians until a more credible agreement is reached.”[27]

Ross has called for increasing U.S. military aid to Israel, including providing advanced weaponry to the country, to “compensate” Israel in the event of a deal being struck with Iran. “We might also compensate the Israelis if there is a deal by providing more bunker-buster bombs and more tankers to make them more capable of militarily acting on their own against the Iranians in the face of cheating,” Ross told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June 2014. “This would reassure the Israelis that even if we felt constrained to act militarily in the face of Iranian violations of an agreement that made a breakout possible, Israel would not be left without options.”[28]

In 2013, Ross pressed for U.S. strikes on Syria, which he said were necessary to avert a war with Iran. “Should opponents block authorization and should the president then feel he cannot employ military strikes against Syria,” Ross wrote in a September 2013 Washington Post op-ed, “this will almost certainly guarantee that there will be no diplomatic outcome to our conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons.” In the absence of a U.S. military strike on Syria, Ross claimed, “the hard-liners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and around the Supreme Leader will be able to claim that there is only an economic cost to pursuing nuclear weapons but no military danger.” Ross also warned that Israel would have “no reason to give diplomacy a chance and no reason to believe that the United States will take care of the problem.”[29]

Ross’ approach to Iran has grown increasingly belligerent over time. In 2007, he sought to preserve a role for diplomacy in U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, arguing in congressional testimony: “The Europeans, Japanese, Indians and the Arab Gulf states represent the economic lifeline to Iran. They see the use of force against Iran as worse than an Iran with nuclear weapons. If they thought their current posture of slowly ratcheting up pressures on Iran—and not cutting them off from credit guarantees, new investments, or provision of gasoline—made the use of force more and not less likely might not they change their behavior? Similarly, if the Bush administration offered to join negotiations now with Iran on the nuclear issue in return for these countries cutting the economic lifeline might not they agree to do so?”[30]

During the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections, Ross participated in two study groups aimed at influencing the next president’s policies toward Iran. During 2007-2008, Ross co-convened WINEP’s 2008 Presidential Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations, which drafted the June 2008 report Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge. A number of Democratic and Republican policy-makers, as well as such leading hawks as James Woolsey, Vin Weber, and James Roche signed the report. Several advisors to then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign also signed the document: Ross, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice, and Richard Clarke.[31]

Arguing that Iran’s nuclear program “hovers above all other items on the U.S.-Israel agenda,” the WINEP study proposed that the next U.S. president, upon taking office, should immediately initiate a policy forum to discuss options on how to “compel a change in Iranian behavior on the nuclear issue.” Among the items they recommended the forum cover were diplomatic engagement and political and economic pressure, as well as “coercive options (such as an embargo on Iran’s sale of oil or import of refined petroleum products), and preventive military action.”[32]

The report pleads for Americans to try to see the Iranian situation from the Israeli perspective, arguing: “Americans should recognize that deterrence is, in Israeli eyes, an unattractive alternative to prevention, because, if deterrence fails, Israel would suffer terribly.” The report also assails what it saw as the growing criticism in the United States of the U.S.-Israeli relationship (i.e. the Mearsheimer-Walt paper on the “Israel Lobby”[33]), stating, “[The] U.S.-Israel relationship has come under unprecedented attack. Some of these critics argue that Israel has manipulated the U.S. government to act counter to the American national interest, which—if properly understood—would see Israel as a liability…We reject that critique.”[34]

Ross helped produce the 2008 report Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development, which was published by a study group convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a policy group led by several former government officials, including Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN) and Sen. Charles Robb (D-VA). The lead drafter of the report was AEI’s Michael Rubin, an outspoken proponent of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. Other participants included Henry Sokolski Michael Makovsky, a former aide to Douglas Feith in the Donald Rumsfeld Pentagon Stephen Rademaker, the husband of AEI’s Danielle Pletka who worked under John Bolton in the State Department and Kenneth Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute.[35]

The report argues that despite Iran’s assurances to the contrary, its nuclear program aims to develop nuclear weapons and is thus a threat to “U.S. and global security, regional stability, and the international non-proliferation regime,”[36] a conclusion that stands in stark contrast to the CIA’s November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran had put its efforts to develop nuclear warheads on hold.[37] The BPC report states, “As a new president prepares to occupy the Oval Office, the Islamic Republic’s defiance of its Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards, obligations, and United Nations Security Council resolutions will be among the greatest foreign policy and national security challenges confronting the nation.” In contrast to many realist assessments of the situation, the report contends that “Cold War deterrence” is not persuasive in the context of Iran’s program, due in large measure to the “Islamic Republic’s extremist ideology.” Thus, even a peaceful uranium enrichment program would place the entire Middle East region “under a cloud of ambiguity given uncertain Iranian capacities and intentions.”[38]

The report advises that the new U.S. president bolster the country’s military presence in the Middle East, which would include “pre-positioning additional U.S. and allied forces, deploying additional aircraft carrier battle groups and minesweepers, emplacing other war material in the region, including additional missile defense batteries, upgrading both regional facilities and allied militaries, and expanding strategic partnerships with countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia in order to maintain operational pressure from all directions.” In addition, the new administration should suspend bilateral cooperation with Russia on nuclear issues to pressure it to stop providing assistance to Iran’s nuclear, missile, and weapons programs. And, if the new administration agrees to hold direct talks with Tehran without insisting that the country first cease enrichment activities, it should set a pre-determined compliance deadline and be prepared to apply increasingly harsh repercussions if the deadlines are not met, leading ultimately to U.S. military strikes that would “have to target not only Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also its conventional military infrastructure in order to suppress an Iranian response.”[39]

Calling the report a “roadmap to war,” Jim Lobe of the Inter Press Service wrote, “In other words, if Tehran is not eventually prepared to permanently abandon its enrichment of uranium on its own soil—a position that is certain to be rejected by Iran ab initio—war becomes inevitable, and all intermediate steps, even including direct talks if the new president chooses to pursue them, will amount to going through the motions (presumably to gather international support for when push comes to shove)…What is a top Obama advisor [Dennis Ross] doing signing on to it?”[40]

Ross has tried to link Middle East issues to Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine’s civil crisis, when Russia sent troops to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula following the ouster of a Kremlin-backed leader by antigovernment protests in Kiev. “President Obama, having stated there will be a cost [for Russia], must be certain that there is one,” Ross wrote for The New Republic. Specifically, Ross endorsed ejecting Russia from the G-8, boycotting all trade talks that include Russia, and imposing “targeted sanctions”—even if the Russians “withhold natural gas supplies to Europe and Ukraine and/or cease their cooperation as part of the P5+1 [nuclear negotiations] on Iran” in response.[41]

Ross claimed that retaliation was necessary to placate “our Middle Eastern friends”—notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, who oppose the international talks with Iran—whom Ross said “believe that the U.S. is increasingly reluctant to act in the face of regional challenges.” Apparently suggesting that Saudi and Israeli impressions of the United States were more valuable than making peace with Iran, Ross concluded, “Regardless of how Iran may seek to exploit any divisions [between the United States and Russia] at this juncture, most leaders in the Middle East will take comfort from signs of American decisiveness in responding to what is seen as a Russian provocation.”[42]

From Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton

Ross got his start in high-level policymaking working under Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon during the Carter administration, where Wolfowitz headed a project called the Limited Contingency Study. The results of this study, writes author James Mann, “would play a groundbreaking role in changing American military policy toward the Persian Gulf over the coming decades.”[43]

The study, coauthored by Ross, was aimed at assessing potential vulnerabilities outside of Europe. Under Wolfowitz’s direction, it became the Pentagon’s “first extensive examination of the need for the United States to defend the Persian Gulf.”[44] It stated, “We and our major industrialized allies have a vital and growing stake in the Persian Gulf Region because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab-Israeli conflict.” It went onto to assert that Soviet control of the Gulf’s oil, would “probably destroy NATO and the U.S.-Japanese alliance without recourse to war by the Soviets.” It also assessed whether countries within the region could threaten to take control of oil fields, specifically Iraq, which the study argued had “become militarily pre-eminent in the Persian Gulf, a worrisome development because of Iraq’s radical-Arab stance, its anti-Western attitudes, its dependence on Soviet arms sales, and its willingness to foment trouble in other local nations.”[45]

After the election of Ronald Reagan, Wolfowitz became head of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, where he assembled a team of advisors. It included a number of figures who later became closely involved in neoconservative-led campaigns, including Ross, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, James Roche, Zalmay Khalilzad, Alan Keyes, and Francis Fukuyama. Discussing this period, Mann points to Ross in arguing that “not everyone on [Wolfowitz’s] staff was a neoconservative. … The fact remained, however, that Wolfowitz’s policy planning staff turned out to be the training ground for a new generation of national security specialists, many of whom shared Wolfowitz’s ideas, assumptions, and interests.”[46]

Also during the Reagan presidency, Ross “served as director of Near East and South Asian Affairs on the National Security Council staff … and as Deputy Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment,” according to his biography on the website of the Harry Walker Agency,[47] a speakers bureau.

During the administration of George H. W. Bush, Ross was appointed head of State’s Policy Planning Staff, where “he played a prominent role in U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations, and the development of the Gulf War coalition.”[48] Mann writes that Ross and Wolfowitz—who had been given a post in the Dick Cheney-led Pentagon where he crafted the notorious 1992 Draft Defense Planning Guidance—[49] were two of the administration’s most vociferous proponents of using the U.S. military to defend Shiite and Kurdish rebellions after the end of the first Gulf War. Describing the opposition to this, Ross told Mann, “Bear in mind, there was this kind of group thinking that was cemented by meeting almost daily over a six- or seven-month period of the president, [James] Baker, Cheney, [Brent] Scowcroft, [Robert] Gates, and [Colin] Powell. They had gone through a period of incredible emotional stress. You’d had experts predicting that America was going to lose fifty thousand dead. The group went through a period of high anxiety [before the war] and then exhilaration.”[50]

President Bill Clinton appointed Ross as his special envoy to the Middle East. Ross’ bio at the Harry Walker Agency recounts a number of successes during the period: “As the architect of the peace process, he was instrumental in assisting the Israelis and Palestinians in reaching the 1995 Interim Agreement, and he successfully brokered the Hebron Accord in 1997. He facilitated the Israeli-Jordan peace treaty and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together. Mr. Ross has been credited for managing the peace process through periods of crisis and stalemate.”[51]

But the peace process failed to produce any enduring agreements to the Palestinian situation Ross endeavored to explain this failure in his 2004 book The Missing Peace. According to New York Times reviewer Ethan Bronner, Ross points to two explanations, “one simple and one messy but no less true or important. The simple answer is that in the end Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was the principal cause of the failure. … The second explanation, the messier one, is that neither side had taken sufficient steps to grasp the needs and neuroses of the other.”[52] Although Ross considers Israeli culpability, he appears to emphasize the failures of the Arabs and Palestinians. Ross writes, “The kind of transformation that would make it possible for the Arab world to acknowledge that Israel has needs has yet to take place.” Regarding the United States, Ross writes, ”Our great failing was not in misreading Arafat. Our great failing was in not creating the earlier tests that would have either exposed Arafat’s inability to ultimately make peace or forced him to prepare his people for compromise.”[53]

Yet, just one year after the failure of the U.S.-led talks at Camp David that ended the chapter of the peace process to which Ross was referring, two other officials directly involved in the talks—Rob Malley, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, and Hussein Agha, a Lebanese scholar and long-time advisor to both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas—offered a very different view of the failure.

“Beneath the superficial snapshot—Barak’s offer, Arafat’s rejection—lies a picture that is both complex and confusing,” Malley and Agha wrote in response to the consensus of the day that Arafat was solely to blame for the failure of talks. “Designed to preserve his assets for the “moment of truth,” Barak’s tactics helped to ensure that the parties never got there. His decision to view everything through the prism of an all-or-nothing negotiation over a comprehensive deal led him to see every step as a test of wills, any confidence-building measure as a weakness-displaying one. Obsessed with Barak’s tactics, Arafat spent far less time worrying about the substance of a deal than he did fretting about a possible ploy. Fixated on potential traps, he could not see potential opportunities. He never quite realized how far the prime minister was prepared to go, how much the US was prepared to push, how strong a hand he had been dealt. Having spent a decade building a relationship with Washington, he proved incapable of using it when he needed it most. As for the United States, it never fully took control of the situation. Pulled in various and inconsistent directions, it never quite figured out which way to go, too often allowing itself to be used rather than using its authority.”[54]

Ross’ role in the Clinton administration was later assessed by the international relations scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their controversial 2006 paper for Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Mearsheimer and Walt wrote, “During the Clinton Administration … Middle East policy was largely shaped by officials with close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organizations—including Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of research at AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and co-founder of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) Dennis Ross, who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001 and Aaron Miller, who has lived in Israel and often visits there. These men were among President Clinton’s closest advisors at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favored creation of a Palestinian state, they did so only within the limits of what would be acceptable to Israel.”[55] For his part, Ross criticized the paper, telling the New York Sun that it had a “lack of seriousness” and was “masquerading as scholarship.”[56]

The Post-9/11 Period

During the presidency of George W. Bush, Ross continued his policy work as a consultant to and fellow at WINEP, authoring policy papers, penning op-eds, and providing congressional testimony on Middle East issues. He repeatedly joined forces with neoconservatives, signing open letters for PNAC, advising advocacy groups like United against Nuclear Iran (whose leadership includes former CIA director James Woolsey and hawkish weapons proliferation expert Henry Sokolski),[57] and joining AEI scholars Michael Rubin and Reuel Marc Gerecht in discussing Mideast policies with their counterparts at the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute,[58] a think tank founded by the American Jewish Committee to serve “as an intellectual bridge between the United States and the European Union.” Ross also served on the board of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an independent think tank that promotes “the thriving of the Jewish people via professional strategic thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry.”[59]

In 2006, Ross joined a cast of neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks in supporting the I. Lewis Libby Defense Fund, an initiative aimed at raising money for the disgraced former assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in connection with the investigation into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name. Ross served on the group’s steering committee along with Fred Thompson, Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes, Bernard Lewis, and Francis Fukuyama.[60] The group’s chairman was Mel Sembler, a real estate magnate who serves as a trustee at AEI and has funded the group Freedom’s Watch.

Commenting on his reason for supporting the fund, Ross, who served with Libby under Wolfowitz in the Reagan State Department, said, “He’s been a friend of mine for 25 years and I believe in him as a person and that he has a right to defend himself. It’s a measure of friendship that you’re there when people need you, not just when it’s convenient.”[61]

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ross supported the advocacy work of PNAC, a neoconservative-led letterhead group that advocated overthrowing Saddam Hussein in response to the attacks, even if he was not tied to them.[62] Ross signed two PNAC open letters on the situation in post-war Iraq, both published in March 2003. The first of these, “Statement on Post-War Iraq,” was issued on March 19, 2003, the day before the United States began its invasion. The letter argued that Iraq should be seen as the first step in a larger reshaping of the region’s political landscape, contending that the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq could “contribute decisively to the democratization of the wider Middle East.” Other signatories included Max Boot, Eliot Cohen, Thomas Donnelly, Joshua Muravchik, and several other core neoconservatives.[63]

Ross was just one of several so-called liberal hawks who signed the letter. Tom Barry of the International Relations Center counted six of the twenty-three signatories as representing this group: “Among the Democrats were Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution and a member of Clinton’s National Security Council staff Martin Indyk, Clinton’s ambassador to Israel Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute and Democratic Leadership Council Dennis Ross, Clinton’s top advisor on the Israel-Palestinian negotiations and James Steinberg, Clinton’s deputy national security advisor and head of foreign policy studies at Brookings.”[64] According to Barry, this “clearly demonstrated the willingness of liberal hawks to bolster the neocons’ overarching agenda of Middle East restructuring.”[65]

In the aftermath of the invasion, Ross—as well as a number of neoconservatives—expressed deep skepticism about the course of the war and the future prospects in Iraq. In 2007 congressional testimony, Ross stated: “The administration was never unified in its purpose or execution. Our assessment was faith-based not reality-based, leaving the Bush administration assuming that everything would fall into place when Saddam was removed, not fall apart. When it fell apart the administration was left without a workable strategy and it has grappled for the last four years with trying to come up with one.”[66]

However, in critiquing Bush’s Mideast policies, Ross limited his criticism to issues of implementation, while giving the White House high marks for its objectives. He told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in July 2007: “The larger purpose of the Bush administration has been democratic transformation, believing that ultimately the way to defeat terrorists is to produce democratic governments to replace the oppressive and corrupt regimes that breed anger and alienation throughout much of the Muslim world. Much like in Iraq, the President’s goals are laudable and far-reaching. The problem has been that the president promoted an ambitious agenda of transformation but has presided over an administration that has consistently sought to employ only minimalist means. Trying to get by on the cheap has characterized the administration’s approach whether it was in Iraq or Afghanistan or even on pushing a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”[67]

In the Obama Administration

Ross’s first appointment in the Obama administration was as the State Department’s special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.[68] The initial State appointment in February 2009 came after months of speculation about whether Ross—regarded by some as an unsuitable diplomat for the Middle East because of his strong ties to Israel—would be given any post at all.[69] According to some observers, the State post was ranked much lower-level one than Ross had hoped.[70]

Ross’s hawkish track record on Iran, which includes endorsing a 2008 report by the Bipartisan Policy Center described by one observer as a “roadmap to war” with Iran,[71] was another source of controversy. Elaheh Koolaee, a former member of the Iranian Parliament and a professor at Tehran University, told the Inter Press Service, “Some people in Iran or in the Middle East may be under the impression that Obama’s promise of change in U.S. foreign policy may have a far reaching extent…Mr. Ross’s appointment shows a continuation of existing U.S. foreign policy in the region [from the Bush administration], not a change.”[72]

Time magazine reported, “It is somewhat surprising to see Ross emerge as an official member of Obama’s team. … When Ross left the State Department in 2000, he was so critical of Yasser Arafat that some friends thought he was considering working for George W. Bush, who cut ties with the late Palestinian leader.”[73]

Some observers pointed to the ultimate failure of the initiatives crafted by Ross as the most surprising aspect of the Obama campaign’s decision to use him as an advisor. One former Bill Clinton official told Time, “If Obama wants to embody something new that can actually succeed, it’s not just a break from Bush that he’s going to need, but a break from Clinton.”[74]

But in June 2009, Ross abruptly shifted to the NSC, a move first reported by Israel’s Haaretz.[75] Ross’s portfolio at the NSC reportedly encompassed an immense region stretching from Pakistan to Israel.[76] In addition, according to the New York Times, Ross served as the Obama administration’s “senior Iran policy-maker.”[77]

According to Haaretz, unnamed “diplomatic sources” in Israel speculated that Ross might have been moved out of State and into the NSC because of a book he cowrote with David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). In Myths, Illusions, and Peace—Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, written before Ross was tapped to serve in the administration, Ross and Makovsky express views at odds with the approach taken by the Obama State Department..[78]

According to Nathan Guttman of Forward, some experts saw Ross’s move to the NSC as an “olive branch to Israel,” which had chafed at Obama’s supposedly tough line on Israeli policies toward Palestinians. Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator, told Guttman, “It’s clear that if Obama wants to advance something on Iran, and on the Israeli-Palestinian front, he will need to reach a modus vivendi with Israel, and that will require someone who knows the Israelis well.”[79]

At the time of the NSC transfer, it was unclear whether the move would strengthen or diminish Ross’s ability to influence administration policy, and to what degree the new post would clash with the work of other diplomats, like that of George Mitchell, special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When asked about this, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said, “I think what the President has done is simply add to a very strong national security team with Dennis and I think—I can assure you, given the list of countries, that they’ll be plenty busy. I don’t think that anybody should, though, believe that this will conflict or supersede the important work that special envoys are doing on the ground in many of these places, even as somebody is here at the White House coordinating a series of people dealing with an important region of the world.”[80]

Ross’s role in the administration came under scrutiny in March 2010 shortly after a heated diplomatic exchange erupted between the United States and Israel over continued settlement expansion in Jerusalem. Politico’s Laura Rozen wrote that during debates in the White House over how to respond to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigence on settlements, Ross argued that “Washington needs to be sensitive to Netanyahu’s domestic political constraints including over the issue of building in East Jerusalem in order to not raise new Arab demands, while other officials including some aligned with Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell are arguing Washington needs to hold firm in pressing Netanyahu for written commitments to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.”[81]

One unnamed official told Rozen that Ross “seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests. And he doesn’t seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this administration.”[82]

Rozen’s story spurred a heated debate of its own. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg accused Rozen of allowing “an anonymous administration official to hijack her blog and accuse the National Security Council’s Dennis Ross of dual-loyalty.”[83] Goldberg’s colleague, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, countered that because Goldberg is unable to question Rozen’s expertise on Middle East issues, he “argues that an Obama official has ‘hi-jacked’ her blog. [Goldberg] calls this Obama official’s statement an accusation of ‘dual loyalty,’ of ‘treason,’ of the fruit of a ‘neo-Lindberghian climate.’ But isn’t the comment conceivably, substantively true? After all, a united Jerusalem under Israel’s exclusive control for ever—Netanyahu’s and Palin’s and Cheney‘s position—has been Ross’s position[84] in the past.”[85] Sullivan pointed to a 2008 Jerusalem Post interview with Ross, in which the diplomat stated, “The fact of the matter is, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that the city should not be divided again. That’s also a fact.”[86]

Ross left the Obama administration in 2011 to rejoin WINEP.

Commenting on his resignation, Chas Freeman, a U.S. diplomat who served as head of the Middle East Policy Council in Washington, said: “None of the issues in his charge prospered during his tenure, which saw the collapse of any pretense of a peace process between Israel and the Arabs, a deepening of the Iranian conviction that a nuclear deterrent is necessary to deter Israeli or American attack, and the collapse of American prestige and influence among the Arabs and in the Islamic world more generally.”[87]

Some commentators in Israel shared this dismal view of Ross’s tenure. Writing in the liberal daily Haaretz, Barak Ravid opined: “Over the past two and a half years Dennis Ross, Middle East adviser to the U.S. president, has been one of the most central people in the White House in everything that has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He has whispered in the ear of U.S. President Barack Obama, maintained a secret and direct channel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his envoy Isaac Molho, and undermined U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell. Despite his central role, his influence on Jerusalem’s actions was minimal. Despite the fact that he is considered to be Netanyahu’s man in the White House, he did not manage to get almost anything from the Israeli prime minister. In Ramallah, his status is even worse. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pushed him aside and effectively declared him a persona non grata. As far as Washington was concerned, he had a far greater impact: mainly a negative one.”[88]

On the other hand, observers from the neoconservative right in the United States lamented Ross’s departure from the administration, arguing that without him the Obama administration would no longer have a “pro-Israel” adviser to shield it from criticism. Elliott Abrams, the Iran-Contra veteran who served as a top Middle East aide in the George W. Bush administration, told Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin: “Now that facade will be removed, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Ross tired of that role and tired of defending a president whose feelings about Israel were as cold as Ross’s are warm. This is going to hurt the White House in the Jewish community, because they have no substitute for Ross and no one with his credibility with most Jewish organizations.”[89]

[1] MJ Rosenberg, “Does PBS Know That “The Washington Institute” Was Founded By AIPAC?” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg/does-pbs-know-that-washin_b_533808.html

[2] Jim Lobe, “‘Israel’s Advocate’ to Leave White House for Pro-Israel Think Tank,” Inter Press Service, November 10, 2011, http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=3964.

[3] Dennis Ross, “Trump Is All Talk On Iran,” Foreign Policy, Fenruary 8, 2018, http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/08/trump-is-all-talk-on-iran/

[4] Dennis Ross, “After the weekend’s Iran-Israel attacks, a burden on Trump to confront Russia and engage Europe,” New York Daily News, February 12, 2018, http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/weekend-iran-israel-attacks-burden-trump-article-1.3815844

[5] See Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development, A report of the independent task force sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, September 2008, http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/8448.

[6] Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, “The Gemunder Center Iran Task Force,” http://jinsa.org/gemunder-center-iran-task-force.

[7] Natasha Mozgovaya, “Dennis Ross at J Street: Extremists Must Not Benefit From Protests in the Arab World,” Haaretz, February 28, 2011, https://www.haaretz.com/1.5129337

[9] Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman and Michael Makovsky, “How to Negotiate with Iran,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/29/opinion/la-oe-ross-iran-diplomacy-20131029.

[10] Philip Weiss, “Dennis Ross says US must undertake ‘new military deployments’ against Iran and support Israel if it strikes,” Mondoweiss, October 29, 2013, http://mondoweiss.net/2013/10/undertake-military-deployments.html.

[17] Dennis Ross and Andrew Tabler, “A Syria Policy for Trump:How Washington Can Get to a Settlement,” Foreign Affairs, November 28, 2016 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2016-11-28/syria-policy-trump

[18] Dennis Ross, “America should get behind Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary crown prince,” Washignton Post, February 12, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/02/12/america-should-get-behind-saudi-arabias-revolutionary-crown-prince/?utm_term=.86224ff74805

[19] Dennis Ross, “Trump Is All Talk On Iran,” Foreign Policy, Fenruary 8, 2018, http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/08/trump-is-all-talk-on-iran/

[20] Dennis Ross, “After the weekend’s Iran-Israel attacks, a burden on Trump to confront Russia and engage Europe,” New York Daily News, February 12, 2018, http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/weekend-iran-israel-attacks-burden-trump-article-1.3815844

[21] Dennis Ross, “The US cannot stand alone in Middle East negotiations,” The Hill, January 10, 2018, http://thehill.com/opinion/international/368074-the-us-cannot-stand-alone-in-middle-east-negotiations

[22] David Holohan, “’Doomed to Succeed’ examines the complicated, ambivalent US-Israel bond,” Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 2015, https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2015/1013/Doomed-to-Succeed-examines-the-complicated-ambivalent-US-Israel-bond

[30] Dennis Ross, Hearing Testimony to Committee on House Foreign Affairs, “Future U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” July 19, 2007, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/36827.pdf.

[31] WINEP Presidential Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations, Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge, June 2008, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/download.php?file=USIsraelTaskForceReport.pdf.

[32] WINEP Presidential Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations, Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge, June 2008, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/download.php?file=USIsraelTaskForceReport.pdf see also, Cheryl Biren-Wright, “Washington Think-Tank Cultivating ‘Last Resort’ Against Iran and Priming Next President,” OpEdnews.com, October 25, 2008, http://www.opednews.com/articles/Washington-Think-Tank-Cult-by-Cheryl-Biren-Wrigh-081025-140.html.

[33] John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby,” London Review of Books, March 23, 2006, https://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/john-mearsheimer/the-israel-lobby

[34] WINEP Presidential Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations, Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge, June 2008, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/download.php?file=USIsraelTaskForceReport.pdf see also, Cheryl Biren-Wright, “Washington Think-Tank Cultivating ‘Last Resort’ Against Iran and Priming Next President,” OpEdnews.com, October 25, 2008, http://www.opednews.com/articles/Washington-Think-Tank-Cult-by-Cheryl-Biren-Wrigh-081025-140.html.

[35] Bipartisan Policy Center, Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development, September 2008, http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/8448 Jim Lobe, “Top Obama Advisor Signs on to Roadmap to War with Iran,” Lobelog, October 23, 2008, http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=198#more-198.

[36] Bipartisan Policy Center, Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development, September 2008, http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/8448.

[37] Gareth Porter, “The NIE Bombshell,” Right Web, December 6, 2007, https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4796.html.

[38] Bipartisan Policy Center, Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development, September 2008, http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/8448.

[39] Bipartisan Policy Center, Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development, September 2008, http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/8448.

[40] Jim Lobe, “Top Obama Advisor Signs on to Roadmap to War with Iran,” Lobelog, October 23, 2008, http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=198#more-198.

[41] Dennis Ross, “How Ukraine Will Shape the Future of the Middle East,” The New Republic, March 2, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116813/how-ukraine-will-shape-future-middle-east.

[42] Dennis Ross, “How Ukraine Will Shape the Future of the Middle East,” The New Republic, March 2, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116813/how-ukraine-will-shape-future-middle-east.

[43] James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), page 79.

[44] James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), page 80.

[45] James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), pages 80-81.

[46] James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), page 113.

[49] Frontline, “Excerpts From 1992 Draft ‘Defense Planning Guidance,’ PBS, February 20, 2003, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/iraq/etc/wolf.html

[50] James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), page 194.

[53] Quoted in Ethan Bronner, “Exhausted Are the Peace Makers,” New York Times, August 8, 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/08/books/exhausted-are-the-peacemakers.html.

[54] Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” New York Review of Books, August 9, 2001, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/08/09/camp-david-the-tragedy-of-errors/

[56] Meghan Clyne, “Kalb Upbraids Harvard Dean over Israel,” New York Sun, March 21, 2006,

[58] Transatlantic Institute, “Is There a New Middle East?” Policy Conference, December 3, 2007, http://www.transatlanticinstitute.org/html/ev_panel.html?id=245.

[59] Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, http://www.jpppi.org.il/.

[60] Neil A. Lewis, “Defense Fund Raises Money in Libby Case,” New York Times, February 3, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/03/politics/03libby.html.

[61] Neil A. Lewis, “Defense Fund Raises Money in Libby Case,” New York Times, February 3, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/03/politics/03libby.html.

[62] Project for the New American Century, “Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism,” September 20, 2001, http://web.archive.org/web/20070807153905/www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.htm.

[64] Tom Barry, “Liberal Hawks Flying in Neocon Circles,” Right Web, May 20, 2004, https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/723.html.

[65] Tom Barry, “Liberal Hawks Flying in Neocon Circles,” Right Web, May 20, 2004, https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/723.html.

[66] Dennis Ross, Hearing Testimony to Committee on House Foreign Affairs, “Future U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” July 19, 2007, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/36827.pdf.

[67] Dennis Ross, Hearing Testimony to Committee on House Foreign Affairs, “Future U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” July 19, 2007, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/36827.pdf.

[68] State Department, “Appointment of Dennis Ross as Special Advisor for The Gulf and Southwest Asia,” February 23, 2009 Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Experts: Dennis Ross,” http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC10.php?CID=8 Dennis Ross biography, Harry Walker Agency, http://www.harrywalker.com/speakers_template.cfm?Spea_ID=453.

[69] Jim Lobe, “Ross Gets An Appointment But Maybe Not Quite the One He Wanted,” Lobelog, Inter Press Service, February 23, 2009, http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=230.

[70] Jim Lobe, “Ross Gets An Appointment But Maybe Not Quite the One He Wanted,” Lobelog, Inter Press Service, February 23, 2009, http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=230.

[71] Jim Lobe, “Top Obama Advisor Signs on to Roadmap to War with Iran,” Lobelog, October 23, 2008, http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=198#more-198.

[72] Omed Memarian, “Obama’s New Iran Envoy Met With Scepticism,” Inter Press Service, February 26, 2009, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45902.

[76] Ben Smith, “NSC Names Ross Senior Director,” Politico, June 26, 2009,


  • Acting with Caution: Middle East Policy Planning for the Second Reagan Administration. Policy Papers #1. Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 1985 . http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC04.php?CID=100 .  
  • Reforming the Palestinian Authority: Requirements for Change. Policy Focus #43. Washington Institute for Near East Policy. August 2002 . http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC04.php?CID=102 .  
  • The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. August 2004. ISBNـ-374-19973-6.  
  • Foreword for: Levitt, Matthew (May 1, 2006). Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Yale University Press. ISBNـ-300-11053-7.  
  • Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. June 2007. ISBNـ-374-29928-5.  
  • Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, with David Makovsky, Viking, 2009, ISBN 0-670-02089-3ISBN 978-0670020898.

Myths, Illusions and Peace By Dennis Ross and David Makovsky - History

"Yo obtuve documentos diplomáticos y militares jordanos de 1967. Entre ellos, los planes de la Operación Tariq, el plan jordano de ataque contra el Jerusalén Oeste (judío) y la zona de Latrún. Estos establecían la ejecución de las poblaciones civiles de varias comunidades judías, como Moza, justo al oeste de Jerusalén. Algunos de esos documentos cayeron en manos israelíes durante la guerra y luego se le mostraron al Rey Hussein durante las reuniones secretas que mantuvo con representantes de Israel en Londres. El Rey negó conocer nada sobre Tariq. Es importante destacar que no solo los jordanos, también los egipcios y los sirios habían planeado la conquista de Israel y la expulsión y muerte de los habitantes judíos en 1967. Hoy, muchos de los auto calificados como 'historiadores revisionistas’ sostienen que los árabes nunca tuvieron intenciones agresivas contra el estado judío y que Israel precipitó la Guerra de los Seis Días para expandirse territorialmente. Las pruebas documentales refutan indudablemente tal alegación.
(. )

La tesis principal de Segev, esto es, que la Guerra de los Seis Días fue producto de miedos irracionales israelíes y de su belicosidad, ha circulado desde hace años. Está implícita en el reciente libro de Jimmy Carter, que dice - bastante erróneamente- que Israel atacó preventivamente a Jordania y Siria en 1967. Pero es crucial destacar que ni Segev ni Carter emplean una sola fuente árabe. En esencia, para ellos los árabes no existen. El resultado no solo es una injusticia para Israel, es, sobre todo, una burda discriminación de los árabes, a quienes tratan como personajes planos, incapaces de tomar decisiones independientes y de tener dinámicas políticas."

Así, en relación con las políticas árabes, he ofrecido una posible revisión de la habitual visión de1967: acaso su recuerdo, lejos de enfadar y poner en el disparadero a los árabes, sea el fundamento de la estabilidad del orden árabe y de la paz regional. (. ) El impacto de 1967 fue crear un nuevo balance, y expulsar las ideologías a los márgenes de la política. (. ) En última instancia, 1967 originó un proceso que condujo al establecimiento final de fronteras entre los estados.

El riesgo hoy, cuarenta años después, no es que las consecuencias de 1967 sigan con nosotros. Es que el recuerdo de 1967 comienza a difuminarse y su legado se está erosionando. Me llaman la atención los subtítulos de los dos principales libros sobre 1967. El de Michael Oren es Junio de 1967 y la Formación del Oriente Medio Moderno. El de Tom Segev va incluso más allá: Israel, la Guerra y el Año que Transformó el Oriente Medio. ¡Si así fuera! El problema es que el Oriente Medio sigue siendo rehecho y transformado por eventos sucesivos, cuyo legado es mucho más dañino que el legado de 1967.


Hundreds of books have been written on globalization, and the Great Recession generated many new books dealing specifically with macroeconomics. The books listed below have provided me with various perspectives on how we got to where we are and where we might be going. My touchstone has always been the sustainability of whatever trend was the topic of the book.

$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better, Christopher Steiner, 2009

10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less, Garett Jones, 2020

2048, David Passig, 2012

2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Jorgen Randers, 2012

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari, 2018

Abundance, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, 2012

The Affluent Society, John Kenneth Galbraith, 1958, 1998

After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, Jedediah Purdy, 2015

After the Empire, Emmanuel Todd, 2003

Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, Richard A. Clarke, 2004

Age of Anger: A History of the Present, Pankaj Mishra, 2017

Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, by Matthieu Ricard, 2013

America Alone, Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, 2004

America and the World, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, 2008

America at the Crossroads, Francis Fukuyama, 2006

American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips, 2006

America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected World, by Rework America, 2015

America’s Promise Restored, Harlan Ullman, 2006

The Arrogance of Power, J. William Fulbright, 1966

Average Is Over, Tyler Cowen, 2013

The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Jonathan Schneer, 2010

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Greg Palast, 2002

The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth’s Future, Paul Sabin, 2013

Better, Stronger, Faster: The Myth of American Decline, Daniel Gross, 2012

Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It, Robert B. Reich, 2012

Beyond the Age of Innocence, Kishore Mahbubani, 2005

Beyond the Crash, Gordon Brown, 2010

Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” , As’ad AbuKhalil, 2002

Breaking the Real Axis of Evil, Mark Palmer, 2003

Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Future, Newt Gingrich, 2013

The Bubble of American Supremacy, George Soros, 2004

The Business Solution to Poverty, Paul Polak, 2013

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Capitalists, ARISE!: End Economic Inequality, Grow the Middle Class, Heal the Nation, Peter Georgescu, 2017

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Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country, E. J. Dionne, Jr., 2020

Common Wealth: Economics for a Small Planet, Jeffrey Sachs, 2008

The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present, David Runciman, 20123

The Conservative Soul, Andrew Sullivan, 2006

Cool War: The Future of Global Competition, Noah Feldman, 2013

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The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis, 2003

The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Golden Age, Tim Wu, 2018

Dark Ages America, Morris Berman, 2006

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer, 2016

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, Tom Nichols, 2017

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Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen, 1999

The Dignity of Difference, Jonathan Sacks, 2002

Disarming Iraq, Hans Blix, 2004

Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality, David Cay Johnston, 2014

Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, Kate Raworth, 2017

Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century,Gideon Rachman, 2016

Economic Justice in an Unfair World, Ethan B. Kapstein, 2006

The Economics of Enough, Diane Coyle, 2011

The Economics of Inequality, Thomas Piketty, 1997, 2015

The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society, Binyamin Appelbaum, 2019

The End of Growth, Martin Ford, 2009

The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama, 1992

The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth, James K. Galbraith, 2014

The End of the American Era, Charles A. Kupchan, 2002

The End of the Suburbs, Leigh Gallagher, 2013

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Ethical Realism, Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, 2006

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, Kurt Andersen, 2017

Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright, 2018

Fast Forward: Ethics and Politics in the Age of Global Warming, William I. Antholis and Strobe Talbot, 2010

Fault Lines, Raghuram G. Rajan, 2010

Finishing Business, Harlan K. Ullman, 2004

The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge, 2014

Free Lunch, David Cay Johnston, 2007

Free World, Timothy Garton Ash, 2004

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From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and its Jihadi Legacy,Jean-Pierre Filiu, 2015

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glob-ali-za’-tion, Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn, 2009

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A Grand Strategy for America, Robert J. Art, 2003

Grave New World: The End of Globalization, the Return of History, Stephen D. King, 2017

The Great Convergence, Kishore Mahbubani, 2013

The Great Disruption, Paul Gilding, 2012

The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2015

The Great Experiment, Strobe Talbott, 2008

The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Walter Scheidel, 2017

The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 2011

The Great Rebalancing, Michael Pettis, 2013

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Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel M. Katz, 2017

Has Globalization Gone Too Far?, Dani Rodrik, 1997

Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance, 2016

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Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas L. Friedman, 2008

How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying Too), David P. Goldman, 2011

How Much Is Enough?, Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky, 2012

How to Change the World, David Bornstein, 2004

The Human Web, J. R. McNeill and William H. McNeill, 2003

The Ideas That Conquered the World, Michael Mandelbaum, 2002

Imperial Hubris, Michael Scheuer, 2004

In Defense of Globalization, Jagdish Bhagwati, 2004

The Industries of the Future, Alec Ross, 2016

Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovative Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It, by John Kao, 2007

Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century, Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels, 2012

The Last Economic Superpower, Joseph P. Quinlan, 2011

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The Lights in the Tunnel, Richard Heinberg, 2011

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Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, Jonathan Sacks. 2020

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Myths, Illusions and Peace, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, 2009

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The Necessary Revolution, Peter Senge, 2008

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Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 2015

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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder, 2017

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Outside the Box: How Globalization Changed from Moving Stuff to Spreading Ideas, Marc Levinson, 2020

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The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz, 2004

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The People vs Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is In Danger & How to Save It, Yascha Mounk, 2018

The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age, David E. Sanger, 2018

Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace, Gore Vidal, 2002

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Plan B 3.0, Lester Brown, 2008

The Plan: How to Rescue Society When the Oil Stops – Or The Day Before, Edwin Black, 2008

Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut, 1952

The Plundered Planet, Paul Collier, 2010

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy , Francis Fukuyama, 2014

The Politicians & the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics, Sean Wilentz, 2016

Politics Lost, Joe Klein, 2006

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Power Rules, Leslie H. Gelb, 2009

The Price of Civilization, Jeffrey Sachs, 2011

The Price of Inequality, Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2012

Prosperity Without Growth, Tim Jackson, 2009

Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, 2011

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The Revenge of Geography, Robert D. Kaplan, 2012

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, Robert J. Gordon, 2016

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, Martin Ford, 2015

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, Timothy Snyder, 2018

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This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, Naomi Klein, 2014

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World On Fire, Amy Chua, 2003

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Is this getting stabbed in the back or the front?

I guess it should maybe come as no surprise, but criticism of President Obama’s Middle East policy has come from an unlikely source – one of his special envoys tasked with carrying it out. Ha’aretz is reporting that in his new book, Dennis Ross opposes a comprehensive view of bringing peace to the Middle East. From the article “Dennis Ross vs. Obama: No link between Iran, Mideast peace“:

Dennis Ross, the U.S. Secretary of State’s special adviser on Iran, says in a new book that the United States will not make progress toward peace in the Middle East with the Obama administration’s new plan. . .

In the second chapter, entitled “Linkage: The Mother of All Myths,” Ross writes: “Of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East, one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all other Middle East conflicts would melt away. This is the argument of ‘linkage.'”

Ross has written the new book with David Makovsky from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. WINEP is an institution closely identified with the Israel lobby, and one that Ross himself has worked for. Maybe this is why there was so much trepidation with a possible Ross appointment in the new administration? Ha’aretz says “Ross’ appointment has been controversial because he is an observant Jew and is considered a strong supporter of Israel.” I think it was the latter.

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Watch the video: Oslo Accords 1993 (January 2022).