The year 2013 is going to be a decisive one for the second Obama administration,
Ambassador Dennis Ross, a counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, said in Jerusalem on Thursday.
Speaking at a joint conference of
the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Ross
forecast that the three priorities of the Obama administration in convergence
with Israel would be Iran, Syria and what he termed the “Arab Awakening” – as
distinct from the Arab Spring.
The potential point of divergence from
Israel would be the Palestinian issue, he said.
With regard to Iran, Ross
was hopeful that the problem of nuclearization could be settled
On Syria, Ross warned that the conflict there could
easily radiate outside, which he noted is already happening.
that Arab Awakening is enabling people to see themselves as citizens with a
voice, instead of subjects on whom the regime imposes its views.
also urged Israel to change the dynamic vis-a-vis the Palestinians since at the
moment there is a “dynamic of disbelief on both sides,” he said.
attempt to bring both sides back to the negotiating table, Ross proposed an
agenda for discussion and suggested that topics on the Israeli side include:
Compensation for any settler who leaves;
• Cessation of construction in areas
that will be part of the Palestinian State;
• Construction only in areas that
will be part of Israel;
• Opening up Area C for Palestinian economic activity;
Expanding the scope of Palestinian security responsibility in Area B; and
Giving Palestinians more civil and security responsibility in Area A, and
keeping Israeli soldiers out of those areas as much as possible.
Palestinian agenda Ross suggested:
• Putting Israel on the map, because Israel
cannot be found in any Palestinian text book;
• Start talking about two states
for two peoples;
• Stop incitement and do not name squares and parks for those
who killed Israelis; and
• Prepare your public for peace.
that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat used to speak of the Peace of the
Brave because both sides will have to make hard decisions.
suggested that Palestinians evacuate their refugee camps, rebuild the areas and
let the people who live there move back to proper housing.
It is also
essential for Palestinians to build a rule of law to send a message to Israel
about the kind of neighbor that Palestine will be, said Ross. He also urged
Israelis and Palestinians to bring together their children from third grade
“You have two societies living close to each other who may as
well be living on different sides of the moon,” he said.
The disbelief on
both sides was confirmed by pollster Mina Tzemach, who quoted from surveys taken
at the end of November after both the US elections and Operation Pillar of
Defense. It was at such a low ebb, and so consensual, she said, that there was
no point in classifying responses in accordance with age, gender, ethnicity,
religion or socioeconomic status.
Another aspect of the conference was on
the souring of relations between Israel and Europe as well as Israel and the US,
as an outcome of the Jewish state’s decision to advance construction in E1 and
the West Bank.
Itamar Rabinovich, a former ambassador to the US, opined
that tensions would continue until after the Knesset elections and the formation
of a new government, because these disputes serve the interests of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his election campaign and resonate with rightwing
Zalman Shoval, who has twice served as ambassador to the US, was
confident that common interests between Israel, the US and Europe would override
He could not foresee an end to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, but envisaged that there would be crisis management in the years
Hebrew University Prof. Shlomo Avineri, a former directorgeneral
of the Foreign Ministry, made the distinction between security and ideology. The
whole world saw Israel’s brutal operation in Gaza, which did not enhance
Israel’s image, he said, but Israel’s actions were supported by Europe and the
US because they understood that it was a matter of security.
continued, building in Jerusalem and the West Bank is not a security matter but
is a matter of ideology – and something that neither Europe nor the US are
prepared to condone.
When asked by moderator Nadav Eyal, the foreign news
editor at Channel 10, what advice they would give to the incoming prime
minister, all three were in agreement – to mend fences with Turkey.
before that, they said, the prime minister has to go to Washington to solidify
relations with Obama.