Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, in Jerusalem, March 1, 2017.

Dennis Ross, who served as Director of Policy Planning under President George H. W. Bush, special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, last week warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that while President “Biden’s strong response to the trauma of Oct. 7 has given him a great deal of credit with the Israeli public,” however, “threatening to withhold US aid unless Israel changes its policies would only have the effect of making the Israelis feel they must go it alone.”

“The reality is that US aid to Israel has never been a blank check,” writes Ross, and Washington has frequently used military assistance to push Israel to take risks for the sake of peace, or to help deter America’s enemies in the region. But “Israel is a democracy, its policy choices are often shaped and determined by public opinion, and history shows that if Israeli voters think the US is making unreasonable demands, it will reject them, regardless of the costs.”


US aid to Israel “is not simply a favor to Israel—it serves American geopolitical interests while also channeling much of the aid back to the US defense industry,” Ross points out, and acknowledges that “Israel has developed and shared critical new military technologies, whether ‘active armor’ to protect tanks, or the Arrow and Iron Dome anti-missile defense systems.”

Ross insists that “Today, with Israelis united in wartime and still traumatized by the Hamas attack, trying to force them to accept a Palestinian state would backfire. In time, the Israeli public will be readier to think about the real choices they face with the Palestinians.”

Ross agrees that the Biden administration must push for “resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … however impossible that goal may seem now.” But “making assistance to Israel conditional on certain policies won’t build American influence or further American interests.”

Instead, Ross advises, “Joe Biden’s standing with the Israeli public is the US’s most powerful asset today in shaping events in Gaza, and it will force any Israeli prime minister to pay a price for resisting his administration’s priorities.”

Ross grew up in San Francisco with a Jewish mother and Catholic stepfather, who raised him in a non-religious atmosphere. In 2002, Ross co-founded the Kol Shalom Conservative synagogue in Rockville, Maryland.

Between 1993 and 1997, Ross was President Clinton’s envoy in forging the Oslo Accords and the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

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