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Opinion

Dennis Ross is the wrong choice for ambassador to Israel

During his career in Middle Eastern foreign policy, he’s made mistakes that have had life-and-death consequences for Israel.

Dennis Ross speaking at Emory University in 2007. Credit: Nrbelex via Wikimedia Commons.
Dennis Ross speaking at Emory University in 2007. Credit: Nrbelex via Wikimedia Commons.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

A diplomat who has devoted most of his career to pressuring Israel for one-sided concessions to the Palestinians should not serve as the U.S. ambassador to Israel. That’s why I’m deeply concerned by reports that Dennis Ross is under consideration by Joe Biden for that position.

Ross began his involvement in Mideast affairs as head of the State Department Policy Planning unit that crafted the policies implemented by James A. Baker, the most anti-Israel Secretary of State in American history.

In 1991, Moment magazine dubbed Ross and his colleagues “the Jewish Arabists.” Israeli diplomats have described how they sometimes used their Jewish identity as a kind of cover for their harsh treatment of Israel, pointing to the fact that they are Jewish as “proof” that they couldn’t possibly be unfair to Israel.

But the policies that Ross, et al, conceived for the Bush-Baker administration spoke for themselves, including:

  •  The 18 months of “dialogue” with Yasser Arafat in 1989-1990, during which President George H. W. Bush and Secretary Baker refused to acknowledge PLO terrorist attacks, lest they be forced to cut off relations with Arafat.
  • Baker’s constant public criticism of Israel and unrelenting pressure to halt all Jewish housing in much of Jerusalem, as well as Judea-Samaria.
  • The infamous vulgarity that Baker uttered against Jews. Baker denied he said it, but the source turned out to be unimpeachable: cabinet member Jack Kemp. (In any event, Baker’s profanity obviously mirrored his policies towards Israel and Jews.)
  • Bush’s notorious outburst about how he was “one lonely little guy” under siege by “powerful” Jewish lobbyists who were swarming Washington in support of humanitarian loan guarantees for Israel. AIPAC’s executive director called it a “day of infamy.” That was putting it mildly, to judge by the anti-Semitic messages of support that flooded the White House switchboard.
  • The United States promise to support Israeli military action if Israel was attacked by Iraq, followed by the brutal American pressure on Israel not to strike back as Saddam’s Scud missiles rained down on Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Along the way, Bush was succeeded by Bill Clinton, yet Ross and his colleagues remained in their jobs and their bias took on new forms:

  • The refusal to ever criticize Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for their constant violations of the Oslo accords.
  • The refusal to extradite even one of the many Palestinian Arabs involved in the murders of American citizens.
  • The grotesque attempt to orchestrate a propaganda visit by Arafat to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

When Barack Obama became president and Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, Ross had a new channel for his advancing his old agenda. As a senior aide to Secretary Clinton, Ross undertook one of the most troubling anti-Israel actions in the history of American foreign policy: pressuring Israel to let Hamas bring concrete into Gaza.

Writing in The Washington Post on Aug. 8, 2014—years after he did the damage—Ross wrote: “I argued with Israeli leaders and security officials, telling them they needed to allow more construction materials, including cement, into Gaza so that housing, schools and basic infrastructure could be built. They countered that Hamas would misuse it, and they were right.”

Thanks to Ross’s pressure, Hamas built “a labyrinth of underground tunnels, bunkers, command posts and shelters for its leaders, fighters and rockets,” acknowledged Ross. They built the tunnels with “an estimated 600,000 tons of cement,” some of which was “diverted from construction materials allowed into Gaza.”

That’s not the only colossal mistake Ross has made—and admitted—that has had life-and-death consequences for Israel.

Writing in the journal Foreign Policy on Jan. 2, 2018, here’s what Ross confessed concerning the Obama administration’s policy towards anti-government protests in Iran:

“In June 2009, I was serving in President Barack Obama’s administration as the secretary of state’s special advisor on Iran and was part of the decision-making process. Because we feared playing into the hands of the regime and lending credence to its claim that the demonstrations were being instigated from the outside, we adopted a low-key posture. In retrospect, that was a mistake. We should have shined a spotlight on what the regime was doing and mobilized our allies to do the same.”

Well, isn’t that simply great? Six years after he put tunnels-grade concrete in the hands of Hamas and eight years after abandoning the forces who could have overthrown the genocidal Iranian regime, Dennis Ross says, “Oops!” And Israel is left to deal with the consequences: terror tunnels throughout Gaza and an Iran that is building nuclear weapons to incinerate the Jewish state.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel does not just convey messages from Washington or attend ceremonies. He is actively involved in shaping and implementing American policy towards the Jewish state. Dennis Ross’s decades-long record of actions that have been harmful to Israel should disqualify him from consideration for that position.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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