US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross steps down from post

Ross originally agreed to work for White House for two years, extended term in light of Arab Spring; White House lays praise on envoy.

dennis ross_311 reuters (photo credit: Gary Cameron / Reuters)
dennis ross_311 reuters
(photo credit: Gary Cameron / Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Dennis Ross, a senior aide to US President Barack Obama on the Middle East, has decided to step down from his post, the White House said on Thursday.
It was not immediately clear who would replace him.
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“Dennis Ross has an extraordinary record of public service and has been a critical member of the president’s team for nearly three years,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Ross, a special assistant to the president, had initially pledged to work for Obama for two years, but extended his time at the White House by another year in light of the Arab Spring upheaval reshaping the region, Carney said.
His departure casts additional doubt over Obama’s Middle East strategy, and follows the resignation in May of Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell.
Ross, who turns 63 in two weeks, had been central to Obama’s efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, dealt a blow last month when the Palestinians gained membership of the UN cultural agency UNESCO, something Obama had sought to prevent. The United States and Israel believe the Palestinians should try to establish a state through direct peace talks, which broke down nearly a year ago, and they say that action at the United Nations will make it harder to resume negotiations.
“Obviously, there is still work to do, but I promised my wife I would return to government for only two years and we both agreed it is time to act on my promise,” Ross said in a brief resignation statement.
Ross played a central role in United States efforts at achieving a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians since the early 1990s in the administration of George Bush Sr. He later served as special Middle East envoy under US president Bill Clinton.
Ross’s Jewish mother and Catholic stepfather raised him in a nonreligious atmosphere.
He became religious after the Six Day War, and in 2002 cofounded the Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville, Maryland.