Washington Babylon — January 14, 2009, 8:48 am

Obama’s Middle East Dealmaker

Dennis Ross, Barack Obama’s proposed new Middle East guru/envoy, has gotten generally fawning coverage from the press. In Newsweek,, Michael Hersh wrote: “One man who will probably be running ahead of the pack is Dennis Ross, the longtime Mideast peace envoy who suffered through the rise and fall of the Oslo process in the ’90s—working for both the first President Bush and Bill Clinton—before writing a thick, largely ignored book on the experience. He spent most of the past decade at the policy wonk’s version of purgatory, a think tank. Now Ross is back in a new, more powerful role that offers substantial evidence that Obama intends to treat the problems of Mideast peace as all of a piece, from Gaza to Tehran to Syria.”

Not everyone is so enamored of Ross, however. Here’s what a veteran Middle East expert, with long military experience and who is well known in senior government circles, had to say when I asked for his assessment:

The basic problem is that Ross failed twice as lead envoy for Arab-Israeli peacemaking. His legacy includes the disastrous Hebron protocol, the failed, poorly prepared Camp David meeting, and the unchecked expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. He was a problematic honest broker because he test drove U.S. initiatives with the Israelis, and would be likely to do so in the future. He is disdained by moderate Palestinians, precisely the people that the U.S. would like as interlocutors. By his own admission, see his comments in the NYT Mag in article that marked his exit from the job, he conducted himself to protect Israel’s interests. He conveniently assumes that Israel’s interests coincide with those of the USA, which is sometimes true, but sometimes not true at all. No doubt, the reentry of Ross would be heartily celebrated in Israeli policy circles that oppose a two-state solution, but I don’t find that encouraging. In his recent comments he has expressed skepticism that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is now possible, so it would be odd if Obama allowed him to get within a mile of his expressed intent to move early towards a settlement.

As for Ross being named as some sort of super regional envoy whose portfolio includes Iran, I find that less than optimal as well. He is directly linked to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which has been spewing forth literally hundreds of op-eds, policy papers, interviews, policy briefs, lectures, etc. advocating military intervention against Iran. His connection to WINEP would seem to make him a curious choice for an administration intent on exploring a dialogue with Iran.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Article
Kandahar’s Mystery Executions·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He told me he was made to stand on an ice block for thirty minutes at a time, and would then be forced to run barefoot across the gravel while an officer cable-whipped him.”
Photograph (detail) © Victor J. Blue
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Post
Art Beyond Politics·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia

Percentage of G.O.P. House and Senate members in an April 2006 poll who believed humans are causing climate change:

23

Bees can remember human faces, but only if they are tricked into thinking that we are strange flowers.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today