Dennis B. Ross (born November 26, 1948) is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and was a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (which includes Iran) to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ross was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County. His Jewish mother and Catholic stepfather raised him in a non-religious atmosphere. Ross graduated from University of California, Los Angeles in 1970 and did graduate work there, writing his doctoral dissertation on Soviet decision-making. He later became religiously Jewish after the Six Day War. In 2002 he co-founded the Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville, Maryland.
During President Jimmy Carter's administration, Ross worked under Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon. There, he co-authored a study recommending greater U.S. intervention in "the Persian Gulf Region because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab-Israeli conflict." During the Reagan administration, Ross served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs in the National Security Council and Deputy Director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment (1982–84).
Ross returned briefly to academia in the 1980s, serving as executive director of the Berkeley-Stanford program on Soviet International Behavior from 1984-1986. In the mid-1980s Ross co-founded with Martin Indyk the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-sponsored Washington Institute for Near East Policy ("WINEP"). His first WINEP paper called for appointment of a "non-Arabist Special Middle East envoy" who would "not feel guilty about our relationship with Israel."
In the administration of President George H. W. Bush, Ross was director of the United States State Department's Policy Planning Staff, working on U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control, and the 1991 Gulf War. He also worked with Secretary of State James Baker on convincing Arab and Israeli leaders to attend the 1991 Middle East peace conference in Madrid, Spain.
Middle East envoy
In the summer of 1993 President Bill Clinton named Ross Middle East envoy. He helped the Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and brokered the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron in 1997. He facilitated the Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace and also worked on talks between Israel and Syria.
Ross was criticized by people on both sides of the conflict. Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath described him as being more "pro-Israeli than the Israelis." Occasional references to his Jewish ancestry were brought up within the Arab world (although Ross maintains this was not a problem with other heads of state during negotiations), while some conservative Israelis branded him "self-hating" — each questioning his ability to be unbiased, though Palestinians involved in the negotiation process would insist that his perceived lack of objectivity had little to do with his religion. Describing Ross, Roger Cohen wrote that "Balance is something this meticulous diplomat [Ross] prizes. But a recurrent issue with Ross, who embraced the Jewish faith after being raised in a nonreligious home by a Jewish mother and Catholic stepfather, has been whether he is too close to the American Jewish community and Israel to be an honest broker with Iran or Arabs. Aaron David Miller, after years of working with Ross, concluded in a book that he 'had an inherent tendency to see the world of Arab–Israeli politics first from Israel's vantage point rather than that of the Palestinians.' Another former senior State Department official, who requested anonymity ... told me, "Ross's bad habit is preconsultation with the Israelis."
In their 2006 paper The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer, political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, named Ross as a member of the "Israeli lobby" in the United States. Ross in turn criticized the academics behind the paper. In 2008, Time reported that a former colleague of Ross, former ambassador Daniel Kurtzer published a think-tank monograph containing anonymous complaints from Arab and American negotiators saying Ross was seen as biased towards Israel and not "an honest broker".
Ross's memoir of his experiences, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace tells his side of the story and outlines the key lessons to be drawn. His 2007 book, Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World, criticizes the administration of President George W. Bush for its failure to use the tools of statecraft to advance U.S. national interests. He advocates instead for a neoliberal foreign policy which relies on a much broader and more effective use of statecraft. While having worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, Ross himself is a Democrat.
After leaving his position as envoy, Ross returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow. He became chair of the Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, funded and founded by the Jewish Agency in 2002.
During these years he taught classes at Marquette University, Brandeis University, Georgetown University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University." He also wrote frequently for publications like The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, The New Republic, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal and worked as a foreign affairs analyst for the Fox News channel.
Ross was a noted supporter of the Iraq war and he signed two Project for a New American Century (PNAC) letters in support of the war in March 2003. However, he opposed some of the Bush Administration's policies for post-war reconstruction. He also opposed Bush's policy of avoiding direct talks with Iran.
According to Wall Street Journal, Ross, along with James Steinberg and Daniel Kurtzer, were among the principal authors of presidential candidate Barack Obama's address on the Middle East to AIPAC in June 2008. It was viewed as the Democratic nominee's most expansive on international affairs.
Obama Administration positions
Ross was appointed Special Advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on February 23, 2009. On June 25, 2009 the White House announced that Ross was leaving the State Department to join the National Security Council staff as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, with overall responsibility for the region. The Central Region includes the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia.
Haaretz reported that Ross's work as a Middle East aide in the Obama administration was burdened by tension with special envoy George Mitchell, to the point that Ross and Mitchell sometimes refused to speak to each other. This report indicated that the tension was caused, at least in part, by Ross' occasional efforts to conduct negotiations with Israeli government officials without notifying Mitchell. For example, in both September and November 2010, Ross was said to have tried to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction during negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for unspecified private assurances and a major military arms transfer from the United States.
Palestinian officials reportedly viewed Ross as beholden to the Israeli government, and not as an honest broker or even-handed facilitator of negotiations. For a significant period, Ross refrained from meeting Palestinian Authority officials, while continuing to hold talks with Israeli officials during his visits to the region.
On November 10, 2011, Ross stepped down from his post in the Obama administration.
Twelve step plan for Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations
Dennis Ross has proposed a twelve step plan to get the Israelis and Palestinians back on the "peace wagon and to begin to restore trust." Ross' plan consists of six steps for each side.
For the Israelis, Ross says:
- Offer compensation incentives for settlers who voluntarily begin leaving settlements.
- Construct houses for settlers who leave settlements, so they will know they have a place to live even if they leave a settlement.
- In areas that Israel will definitely leave in a final status agreement, construction must be stopped, while the new housing should be put in the major blocs that Israel is expected to keep.
- Area C, which is 60% of the West Bank that came under full Israeli security control per the Oslo Accords, should be opened up to Palestinian economic activity that is currently prohibited. This will demonstrate that Israel is serious about leaving these territories.
- The Palestinian police's presence in Area B, which is 22% of the West Bank, should be expanded to include security responsibility and lower Israel's profile.
- Israeli incursions into Area A, which is 18% of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has civil and security responsibility, should be minimized unless absolutely necessary.
For the Palestinians, Ross says:
- Israel must be put on their maps, textbooks, websites, and government documents. This will demonstrate that the Palestinians are serious about a two-state solution that includes Israel.
- Palestinians must acknowledge a historical Jewish connection to the land if they are so confident about their own rights to the land.
- Palestinians must stop celebrating anyone who kills an Israeli as a "martyr." This will demonstrate that they are serious about coexistence with Israelis.
- The Palestinian Authority must start conditioning the Palestinian public for the difficult decisions and compromises they will have to take that are necessary for peace—"the more you treat yourself as a victim the more you perpetuate yourself as a victim."
- Refugee camps must be replaced with permanent housing.
- The Palestinians should build the infrastructure and institutions of their state, which would be good for them and also tells the Israelis what kind of state they want to have.
For background, see Positions on Jerusalem
Ross states in his book The Missing Peace that he and other American negotiators pushed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to accept Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem during the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David. Ross wrote part of Barack Obama's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during the 2008 Presidential campaign, and the speech stated that "Jerusalem is Israel's capital" and that it should not be divided again. The Jerusalem Post reported in November 2008 that, according to Ross, these were "facts." However, Ross stated that the "third point," which is the position of the United States since the Camp David Accords, is that the final status of the city will be resolved by negotiations.
- Acting with Caution: Middle East Policy Planning for the Second Reagan Administration. Policy Papers #1. Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 1985.
- Reforming the Palestinian Authority: Requirements for Change. Policy Focus #43. Washington Institute for Near East Policy. August 2002.
- The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. August 2004. ISBN 0-374-19973-6.
- Foreword for: Levitt, Matthew (May 1, 2006). Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11053-7.
- Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. June 2007. ISBN 0-374-29928-5.
- Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, with David Makovsky, Viking, 2009, ISBN 0-670-02089-3 ISBN 978-0670020898.
- Clayton E. Swisher (2004), The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story About the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process. New York: Nation Books.
- Landler, Mark (2009-02-24). "Negotiator picked for post at U.S. State Dept.". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
- Washington Post "WhoRunsGov" profile on Dennis Ross, Accessed March 1, 2009.
- Biography of Dennis Ross, Counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, Viking, 2004, 79–81.
- Clayton E. Swisher (2004), The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story About the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process. New York: Nation Books, p. 35.
- Swisher, The Truth About Camp David, p. 39.
- Quoted in Swisher, The Truth About Camp David, p. 32.
- Tired are the peacemakers: tales from the Arab-Israeli negotiating table, Washington Monthly, September 2004.
- Avi Shlaim, The Lost Steps, The Nation, August 30, 2004.
- Swisher, The Truth About Camp David, pp. 148–49.
- Roger Cohen, "The making of an Iran Policy," The New York Times Magazine, July 30, 2009.
- Clyne, Meghan. Kalb Upbraids Harvard Dean Over Israel, New York Sun, March 21, 2006. Accessed August 17, 2007.
- Obama's Conservative Mideast Pick, Massimo Calabresi, Time, 16 July 2008.
- Frankel, Glen. "Book Review: So Close and Yet So Far," Washington Post, August 22, 2004, BW06.
- "Exhausted Are the Peacemakers," New York Times Book Review, 2004.
- Hirsch, Jordan. "Review of Statecraft," Columbia Current.
- The Missing Peace, Dennis Ross Interviewed by Nonna Gorilovskaya, Mother Jones October 20, 2004.
- Ross: Risk of war, Ynet, June 7, 2002.
- Dennis Ross on Fox News Sunday, Fox News, April 21, 2002.
- Project for a New American Century "Statement on Post-War Iraq," March 19, 2003 and "Second Statement on Post-War Iraq," March 28, 2003.
- Obama's AIPAC speech. Text as prepared for delivery
- Obama's Mideast Experts Emphasize Talks, Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2008; A7
- U.S. State Department Press release.
- Glenn Kessler, White House Makes it Official on Ross, Washington Post, June 25, 2009.
- "Obama's Mideast Envoy Steps Down Amid Stalled Peace Talks" Haaretz, 10 November 2011]
- "President Obama's Mid-East adviser Dennis Ross resigns". BBC. 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2011-11-10.
- Bloomfield, Douglas (July 25, 2012). "A 12-step plan to sober up for peace". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Dennis Ross. August 2004. The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-19973-6.
- Dennis Ross tells 'Post' why Obama. The Jerusalem Post. Published Nov 1, 2008.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Dennis Ross at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Dennis Ross in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Dennis Ross collected news and commentary at Al Jazeera English
- Dennis Ross collected news and commentary at Bloomberg News
- Dennis Ross collected news and commentary at The Jerusalem Post
- Dennis Ross collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Living the Peace Process, Interviewed by the Middle East Quarterly June 1996
- The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, interviewed by Thomas Friedman, Council on Foreign Relations September 13, 2004 (video)
- Council on Foreign Relations Panel Discussion: America and the World: Challenges Facing the Next Administration--Remarks by Ambassador Dennis Ross, October 13, 2004
- Questions for Dennis Ross: Handling Hamas, interviewed by Deborah Solomon, The New York Times February 5, 2006
- Problem Countries: Syria, Iran and Russia stir up trouble, interviewed by Paul Gigot, The Wall Street Journal December 4, 2006
- Dennis Ross discusses Statecraft at the Commonwealth Club of California, July 2, 2007
- Dennis Ross: Myths, Illusions and Peace, The Economist, May 28, 2009