Obama’s Ross: Our Loss

Obama’s Ross: Our Loss

There’s a lot of buzz — much of it generated by AIPAC, WINEP, and other parts of the Israel lobby, and a lot of it, no doubt, by Ross himself — that hawkish Dennis Ross is going to get a big job in Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

It’s an insider battle, one that I’ve chronicled since last summer, between Obama’s more dovish Middle East advisers and hawks such as Ross. Among the doves: Dan Kurtzer, Dan Shapiro, and the once-upon-a-time exiled-from-Obamaland folks such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, who may be back in Obama’s good graces. But Ross is, according to insiders, making a comeback.

A blog at Politico reports that “Obama backers concerned with Israel, are carefully eyeing the interplay between two of his most important advisers on the Middle East,” Ross and Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew who served as US ambassador to both Israel and Egypt.

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There’s a lot of buzz — much of it generated by AIPAC, WINEP, and other parts of the Israel lobby, and a lot of it, no doubt, by Ross himself — that hawkish Dennis Ross is going to get a big job in Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

It’s an insider battle, one that I’ve chronicled since last summer, between Obama’s more dovish Middle East advisers and hawks such as Ross. Among the doves: Dan Kurtzer, Dan Shapiro, and the once-upon-a-time exiled-from-Obamaland folks such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, who may be back in Obama’s good graces. But Ross is, according to insiders, making a comeback.

A blog at Politico reports that “Obama backers concerned with Israel, are carefully eyeing the interplay between two of his most important advisers on the Middle East,” Ross and Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew who served as US ambassador to both Israel and Egypt.

Writing in Asia Times, Kaveh Afrasiabi suggests that Ross is in line to be Obama’s point man on Iran. Several sources I’ve spoken with say that Ross believes that, ultimately, there is no alternative to a US military strike against Iran to stop its nuclear program. (On the links between Ross, and other Obama advisers, and various Iran hawks and neocons, look at my TomDispatch piece from last week.) Afrasiabi quotes Ross on Iran: “We are headed on a pathway now that will lead to the use of force.”

The right-wing Jerusalem Post slams the idea of Kurtzer while snuggling up to “veteran Middle East hand Dennis Ross”:

Leftist ideologues in Israel are lobbying for the appointment of retired ambassador Daniel Kurtzer to be the administration’s Middle East envoy. Were Obama to take their bad counsel, Kurtzer would arrive, not as an honest broker, but as a divisive figure whose views are at variance with those of mainstream Israel.

Steve Clemons, at the New America Foundation, has a clever idea which, he says, came from Brzezinski: why not name Ross to be US ambassador to Israel?

Brzezinski … said that Dennis Ross would make an excellent and important US Ambassador to Israel. I think he’s right — and it’s time to start whispering about Ross’s fate again and get him back in the mix as envoy to Tel Aviv — but not as czar of Middle East negotiations.

That would put Ross safely in a place where he probably couldn’t do any harm, and where he’d have to deliver the bad news to Israeli hawks if Obama, whose Middle East policy looks like it might be shaped by Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, decides to push Israel on a Palestinian state.

Even if it’s looking less and less likely that Bibi Netanyahu, the head of the rightist Likud bloc in Israel, will win February’s election — but especially if he does — Obama ought to give Ross the mission of defeathering Israel’s hawks in 2009.

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