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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”