Ross: Now’s not prime time for peace deal

Longtime US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross says current situation does not lend itself to producing permanent status deal.

February 7, 2012 05:16
2 minute read.
Dennis Ross, senior White House adviser on the ME.

dennis ross_311 reuters. (photo credit: Gary Cameron / Reuters)


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WASHINGTON – Longtime US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross said Monday he did not believe the time was ripe for a permanent deal between Israelis and Palestinians and suggested regarding the region now from a position of “humility.”

“Right now I don’t think the context lends itself very well to producing a permanent status deal,” said Ross, who recently left the Obama administration but last month consulted with the parties as an unpaid White House adviser.

For much of its tenure, the Obama administration has devoted itself to trying to reach a final status deal, setting ambitious deadlines to make it happen.

Ross, speaking to the Aspen Institute, also cautioned that the recent unity deal between Fatah and Hamas could end up amounting to little.

“We’ve seen that announcements don’t always translate into immediate behaviors,” he noted, but he did indicate that he expected this process to lead towards elections.

He warned Israel that in any such elections it has “an enormous stake in ensuring that those Palestinians who believe in nonviolence, who believe in coexistence are the ones who are validated.

“I want to see steps that show that the occupation is actually shrinking.”

And Ross said that though he doesn’t foresee a terminal peace deal in the near future, he stressed that the sides shouldn’t “give up on trying” in case such a deal was possible, and also as a means of widening the range of options at each side’s disposal.

He described a “major psychological gap” between the two parties as a key obstacle to peacemaking.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “believes that with this Israeli government there is no deal and therefore why try to even get into a negotiation with them,” he said, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu complains of Abbas that “it looks like you’re constantly trying to discredit me and delegitimize us.”

He also pointed to Israeli concerns about regional dynamics in the wake of the Arab Spring and the looming threat of a nuclear Iran as reasons some in Israel are thinking twice about making concessions.

One of the major earthquakes rocking the Middle East in the Arab Spring shake-up is the roiling violence in Syria.

Ross criticized Russia for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution this weekend, which was aimed at the removal of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

He urged Arab League countries, which sponsored the plan, to lobby Russia to change its position.

“I don’t think the Russians are real comfortable with the position they’re in,” he said, referring to its isolation as the only country along with China to vote against the resolution. He characterized the further spate of Syrian violence this weekend as “embarrassing” Moscow even further.

Ross said changing the Russian position could be very important because unlike recently deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Assad would not hole up in his compound but be susceptible to strong international pressure.

“It’s important to signal to Assad that he has more to worry about,” Ross said.

He added that it was important to speak with an air of inevitability about fall of the Syrian regime to encourage that event.

“I think it’s coming,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time.”

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