Unlike old warriors, old peace-processors and their worn-out theories don’t fade away. Witness the dean of the “two-state” peace-processors, Dennis Ross, in a December 28 Wall Street Journal column, “The Limits of US Influence Over Israel.” Not content with being wrong in the past about policies dealing with Hamas control over Gaza and its genocidal goals with respect to Israel, Ross believes the US should do more to limit Israel’s war efforts as it seeks to remove Hamas from the scene.
Ross begins his advice column by outlining past efforts by the US to influence Israeli policy in the past 75 years. Some succeeded, others failed. For instance, as a step towards peace, Ross advocated for requiring Israel to let in more construction materials into Gaza. In his words, “I argued with Israeli leaders and security officials, telling them they needed to allow more construction materials, including cement, into Gaza so that housing, schools and basic infrastructure could be built. They countered that Hamas would misuse it, and they were right.” I am sure the IDF soldiers now making their way through tunnels built with that cement, and the families who’ve lost sons in them, appreciate your apology, Mr. Ross.
Ross looks at the details of the US – Israel relationship over many years and takes a shot at Senator Bernie Sanders who would like to see “strings attached” to US aid to Israel. Ross disagrees with the would-be Democrat candidate for president and writes, “the reality is that US aid to Israel has never been a blank check” but the limitations that the US could impose on Israel don’t always work because “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.”
Yet, he writes, “Israel still needs to do more to limit casualties and meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.” He knows that making a demand on Israel tied to sales of munitions won’t be easy or practical because “as one senior Israeli official recently told me, If America says you have to stop or we will cut you off, we will fight with our fingernails if we have to—we have no choice.”
According to Ross, President Joe Biden understands how to handle Israel. Moving two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean at the beginning of the Hamas war when it was thought Hezbollah would get involved demonstrated Biden’s “got Israel’s back” stand (although reports are that one carrier is being removed.) He also points to Ariel Sharon’s “confidence” in George W. Bush as a reason for the 2005 evacuation of Gaza. (Remember that Bush was a big fan of the “Road Map” to peace that Sharon adopted but the other parties ignored.) Ross also credits “Bill Clinton’s bond with the Israeli public helped him to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu into transferring more West Bank territory to the Palestinian Authority, against his own fundamental political precepts.” We see how that worked out.
Ross understands that the October 7 massacre was a game changer; that a country many thought was on the verge of a civil war over its court system has united in achieving one goal, the elimination of Hamas. Yet, Ross believes that once the shooting and rockets stop, “the Israeli public will be readier to think about the real choices they face with the Palestinians.”
Make no mistake, Ross believes “the US should not tolerate—and should not hesitate to criticize—Israeli actions that undermine the possibility of a Palestinian state, like aggressive new settlement activity in the West Bank or attacks by extremist settlers on Palestinian villages.” And he also knows that Israel is not prohibited from building in Israeli controlled parts of Judea and the Shomron, and that a handful of attacks are not an impediment to peace in the region.
Instead, maybe it’s time for Joe Biden and Dennis Ross to address the elephant in the room and recognize and accept as fact that a Palestinian leadership that insists on glorifying terrorists, on denying the Jewish peoples’ connection to the land, on a right of return, and educates school children to think of Jews as sub-human is the real obstacle to peace. If strings are to be attached to aid in the Mideast, the recipients of that aid are in Ramallah, not Jerusalem.