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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Old peace processors and the war in Gaza

Maybe it’s time to address the elephant in the room: Palestinian leadership has been and remains the obstacle.

Dennis Ross, the American envoy and peace negotiator, attends an event at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 2012. Photo by Uri Lenz/Flash90.
Dennis Ross, the American envoy and peace negotiator, attends an event at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 2012. Photo by Uri Lenz/Flash90.
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.)

Witness Dennis Ross, the dean of the “two-state” peace-processors in a Dec. 28 Wall Street Journal column, “The Limits of U.S. Influence Over Israel.” Not content with being wrong in the past about policies dealing with Hamas control over Gaza and its genocidal goals with respect to Israel, Ross believes that the United States should do more to limit Israel’s war efforts as it seeks to remove Hamas from the scene.

Ross begins his advice column by outlining past efforts by America to influence Israeli policy. Some succeeded, others failed. For instance, as a step towards peace, Ross advocated for requiring Israel to let in more construction materials into Gaza. In his words, “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.” I am sure that soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces now making their way through tunnels built with that cement appreciate your apology, Mr. Ross.

Ross looks at the details of the U.S.-Israel relationship over many years and takes a shot at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who would like to see “strings attached” to U.S. aid to Israel. Ross disagrees with the would-be candidate for president and writes: “The reality is that U.S. aid to Israel has never been a blank check.” The limitations that Washington could impose on Israel don’t always work because “Israel is a democracy, its policy choices are often shaped and determined by public opinion, and history shows that if Israeli voters think the U.S. is making unreasonable demands, it will reject them, regardless of the costs.”

Yet, he writes, “Israel still needs to do more to limit casualties and meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.” He knows that making a demand on Israel tied to sales of munitions won’t be easy or practical because “as one senior Israeli official recently told me, if America says you have to stop or we will cut you off, we will fight with our fingernails if we have to—we have no choice.”

According to Ross, U.S. President Joe Biden understands how to handle Israel. Moving two aircraft carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean at the beginning of the war with Hamas when it was thought that Hezbollah would get involved demonstrated Biden’s “got Israel’s back” stand (although reports are circulating that one carrier is being removed.) He also points to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “confidence” in George W. Bush as a reason for the 2005 evacuation of Gaza. (Remember that Bush was a big fan of the “road map” to peace that Sharon adopted but the other parties ignored.) Ross also credits “Bill Clinton’s bond with the Israeli public helped him to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu into transferring more West Bank territory to the Palestinian Authority, against his own fundamental political precepts.” We see how that worked out.

Ross understands that the Oct. 7 massacre was a game-changer—that a country many thought was on the verge of a civil war over its court system has now united in achieving one goal: the elimination of Hamas. Yet Ross believes that once the shooting and rockets stop, “the Israeli public will be readier to think about the real choices they face with the Palestinians.”

Make no mistake, Ross thinks that the United States “should not tolerate—and should not hesitate to criticize—Israeli actions that undermine the possibility of a Palestinian state, like aggressive new settlement activity in the West Bank or attacks by extremist settlers on Palestinian villages.” And he also knows that Israel is not prohibited from building in Israeli-controlled parts of Judea and the Shomron, and that a handful of attacks are not an impediment to peace in the region.

Instead, maybe it’s time for Biden and Ross to address the elephant in the room, and recognize and accept as fact that a Palestinian leadership that insists on glorifying terrorists, on denying the Jewish peoples’ connection to the land, on a right of return and educates schoolchildren to think of Jews as sub-human is the real obstacle to peace. If strings are to be attached to aid in the Mideast, the recipients of that aid sit in Ramallah, not Jerusalem.

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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