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Stop giving Israelis a pass: What Dennis Ross could have said

Former U.S. ambassador and Mideast peace process envoy Dennis Ross penned a ‘New York Times’ op-ed titled, ‘Stop Giving Palestinians a Pass.’ In it, he calls out European diplomats for supporting international efforts to end the occupation while not demanding more of the Palestinians. Below is a duplication of Ross’s op-ed, almost word for word, but this time calling out former American diplomats for disparaging international efforts at ending the occupation while not demanding more of the Israelis.

Read Ross’s original op-ed here.

American diplomat Dennis Ross (Nrbelex/ CC-BY 2.5)

American diplomat Dennis Ross (Nrbelex/ CC-BY 2.5)

The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, rebuffs international consensus about ending the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and refuses to stop building settlements that have scuttled any chance of a negotiated two-state solution. In response to Palestine turning to the International Criminal Court, Mr. Netanyahu has now announced that he will empty the coffers of the Palestinian Authority — an oft-repeated and cliched punitive move that will produce Palestinian suffering but not alter the reality on the ground.

A former American official I read recently expressed sympathy for Israeli opposition to the Palestinians’ pursuit of a Security Council resolution. I responded by saying that if he favors Palestinian statehood, it’s time to stop giving the Israelis a pass. It is time to make it costly for them to focus on rhetoric rather than substance.

Since 2000, there have been three serious negotiations that culminated in offers to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict: Bill Clinton’s parameters in 2000, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts last year. In the first case the proposal was on Israel’s terms alone; in the second, the proposal was made by a prime minister on his way to prison, and who would be replaced by Mr. Netanyahu himself; in the third, Mr. Netanyahu consistently obstructed progress with settlement construction and destroyed the talks by breaking his pledge to carry out agreed-upon and scheduled good-will gestures. Israel determined that stalling and blaming the Palestinians was enough, and that it could live with the status quo.

Israeli political culture is rooted in a narrative of victimhood, its cognitive dissonance about its colonialist nature and its ethnocentric values treat concessions to the Palestinians as foolish. Compromise is portrayed as weakness, and negotiations — which are by definition about mutual concessions — will inevitably force any Israeli leader to challenge his people by making a politically costly decision.

But rebuffing international consensus on the occupation does no such thing. It deludes Israelis into believing there is no pressure and requires no initiative of them. Its diplomatic intransigence is typically about what the Palestinians must do and what Israel should get. If saying yes to the world, international law and diplomatic consensus is so costly and further entrenching the status quo of occupation isn’t, why should we expect the Israelis to change course?

That’s why former American peace negotiators who fervently support Israel despite its intransigence and apathy toward world opinion must focus on how to raise the cost of saying no or not acting at all when international institutions and parties offer to get involved. Israelis care deeply about international support. If they knew they would be held accountable for being nonresponsive or rejecting new paths for ending the occupation, it could well change their calculus.

Unfortunately, most former American peace negotiators are focused far more on Palestinian Security Council resolutions aimed at ending the occupation and want, at a minimum, to see the text of such resolutions be more “balanced.”

But rejecting efforts to end the occupation and ensure the respect of humanitarian law in the territories is counterproductive. It will be seen in Palestine as a one-sided approach, and it will strengthen Palestinians who see bilateral diplomacy as futile. Those Palestinians will argue that the deck is stacked against Palestine and that the country needs leaders who will do more than sit on the low chair at a table with their occupiers.

Why not wait? If a new Israeli government abandons the demands of each and every one of its predecessors and is prepared to take a peace initiative and dismantle settlements and checkpoints on occupied land, there will be no need to oppose UN resolutions and Palestinian ascension to the ICC.

If not, and if Israel’s patron ex-diplomats in Washington decide to offer their own resolution, it must reflect the power imbalance of Israel and Palestine. It cannot simply address Israeli security needs by offering it creative ways to retain control of the West Bank and prevent a just resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem without offering something equally specific to the Palestinians — namely, international supervision and tangible consequences for Israel if it violates the newly formed state’s sovereignty, and guarantees of full civil rights for Israel’s minority Arab-Palestinian population.

In all likelihood the Israelis would reject such a resolution. Accepting it would require compromises that they refused in 2000, 2008 and 2014. There is, of course, no guarantee that the Palestinians would accept such a resolution. But the Palestinians are not the ones entrenching the occupation and rejecting efforts to end it. The Israelis are. And if their approach is neither about two states nor peace, there ought to be a price for that.

Peace requires accountability on both sides. It’s fair to ask the Palestinians to accept the basic elements that make peace possible — 1967 lines as well as land swaps and settlement building limited to the blocs. But isn’t it time to demand the equivalent from the Israelis on immediately ending the occupation and dismantling all settlements that Palestinians haven’t expressly approved? Isn’t it time to ask the Israelis to respond to international proposals and accept resolutions that address Palestinian needs and not just their own?


Michael S. Omer-Man, managing editor at +972 Magazine, has never been a negotiator for Arab-Israeli issues for anyone, ever. He is the author of the forthcoming article “[Face-palm]: Why Israel won’t end the occupation on its own.”

No version of this article has, nor will it ever, appear in print, in sections A, B or C of any newspaper, certainly not on January 5, 2015.

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    1. Hayley

      A simple but very intelligent way of striking the balance between the Israeli and Palestinian factions, for once.

      Thanks Michael for juxtaposing the general opinions of the anti-Israel crowd with those of the Zionists so we can see the arguments on both sides when they’re at their most intelligent and legible.

      I can understand why Ross thinks as he does, but it’s time he realises that Abbas is attempting to use international institutions simply because there are so few alternative options available. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

      Equally, you could say the Israeli government is continuing to do as it does because they are so few options available, many would consider the immediate threat too high to end the occupation.

      The two sides should be placed side by side like this more often.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Dennis Ross is a paid Israel advocate in Washington (in some circles he is known as Israel’s lawyer). He is about as fair and objective about Israel and Palestine as Abe Foxman is.

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    3. Brian

      Whatever Dennis Riss says, in general, do the opposite, Mr. Abbas. Your move has already caused Netanyahu to say his proper Zionist response will helpfully include starving the Palestinians but not more settlement building. (That’s what he SAYS. Meanwhile Defense Minister Ya’alon, the entire IDF at his disposal. just had to pass the settlers $18 million from the defense budget under the table supposedly just to get them to agree to temporarily withdraw from a few “illegal outposts” (as if a thing the settlers do is legal).)

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    4. Bruce Gould

      I read the editorial by Ross this morning I and noticed that he made no mention of the Arab peace initiative of the early 2000’s, which got zero discussion in the Knesset. I also noticed that Ross didn’t mention the incredibly bad human rights situation – the bulldozing of crops and burning of olive groves, the home demolitions, the ‘administrative detentions’ and surreal legal system the Palestinins have to contend with….or that fact that the Likud charter states its opposition the the existence of a Palestinian state.

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    5. Weiss

      Thanks for the reality check.

      Ross’ original letter proves that he was a biased mediator for the US and had absolutely no interest in achieving a fair compromise that the Palestinians could get behind.

      Another Zionist-Jew who’s empathy somehow seems to have been surgically removed.

      And yet ANOTHER reason why I am Ashamed to be Jewish.

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      • Dis

        I feel your pain; we’ve all lost so much because of Zionism. It wasn’t worth it. Jewish history has been tainted forever. I too feel ashamed to be Jewish now – its so agonizing to admit. I have to literally apologize wherever I go now, or just explain I ave nothing to do with that wretched place. Israel stole my dignity and our identity, insults our intelligence even our humanity. They did it all on purpose too proclaiming they ‘represent’ us all. To purposely scapegoat even the most humble and totally uninvolved Jewish family.

        Zionism seeks to destroy our souls.

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    6. Mikesailor

      Weiss: You don’t have to be ashamed to be Jewish. You should be ashamed if you ever bought into the racist ideology of Zionism. Ross is a Zionist.And scratch any Zionist, no matter how “liberal”they profess to be and you will find a racist xenophobe underneath.Why? Because Zionism is based on two false premises which have been indoctrinated into every Jewish child ever to attend Hebrew school: that the Jews were and are the most persecuted group on the planet through absolutely no fault of their own; and that they are imbued with the ‘right’ to control others for the betterment of the “tribe”. The fear of “assimilation”, the idea that Jews are merely another part and parcel of humanity warts and all, is anathema to the Zionist ideology. For they can never see nor accept that “God” is universal or nothing. He either created everything or nothing. And that we either tolerate and accept the differences between groups or we all go down together. So, don’t be afraid. You are in good company: the company of Einstein, magnes, Arendt and Spinoza whil on the other side are the intellectual miscreants such as Herzl, Jabotinsky, Kahane, Begin and Ben-Gurion.

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      • Margot Dunne

        Yes. “God” (however we interpret the content of this Name) is certainly universal or nothing. Makes me think of lines from Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: “For the dear God who loveth us,/ He made & loveth all.”

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      • Weiss

        Yes I will continue to be Ashamed to be Jewish as long as the Fascist Brown-Shirts are in control.

        Believe me the list is quite long…

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    7. Richard

      As I look around the world I see wars that don’t seem to ever end and rumors of wars yet to start. In the first 3 months of 2014 there were more strong earthquakes of 5.0 or higher than were recorded in ANY FULL YEAR previous to this one. Prophecy speaks of a time where man kind has more knowledge than before and people travel around to various places. Just 150 years ago men still used sailing ships but today man can travel to the moon when they choose. This is the first time in history where man kind fits these prophecies exactly and it’s also the first time that the prophecy that Israel would be back as a nation has been fulfilled. These are the end times the Bible speaks about. The Messiah Jesus will return to take up his people soon and the tribulation period will then start. I wrote a small book about the end times and prophecy and the tribulation period. It’s just for your information and consideration and it’s free. I don’t even accept donations on my or anyone else’s behalf. It’s a short read of about 7 pages. I encourage you to take a look. http://www.booksie.com/religion_and_spirituality/book/richard_b_barnes/after-the-rapture-whats-next

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Richard – people have been saying exactly the same as you for almost two thousand years – can something be imminent for two thousand years? Surely it’s best to accept that these were simply aspirations of human scribblers – or if you are crazy enough to believe that every word in the Bible is literally true, that whatever will happen will happen in God’s own good time, and your impatience and misreading of omens (increased earthquake activity in USA is due to fracking) will not hurry him along.

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    8. “Israeli political culture is rooted in a narrative of victimhood, its cognitive dissonance about its colonialist nature and its ethnocentric values treat concessions to the Palestinians as foolish. Compromise is portrayed as weakness, and negotiations — which are by definition about mutual concessions — will inevitably force any Israeli leader to challenge his people by making a politically costly decision.”

      What a refreshingly honest assessment of Israeli politics.

      Reply to Comment

      Bottom line. U.S. bribes Israel, to keep a somewhat order structure in nearby region; Israel black mails U.S. to a tune of $3b/yr. It’s a good scam.

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    10. Dick Tracy

      What a pile of horseshit from racist anti-semites. Fuck you all ! Dennis Ross ALWAYS BUT ALWAYS criticized Israel and blamed it for failing to offer its neck to the Arabs. For all you self-hating Jews, not to worry, Jewish life in America is self-destructing.

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      • Yeah Right

        What? There are TWO guys called Dennis Ross???

        Must be, because the Dennis Ross that is the subject of this article has only ever had a single strategy w.r.t. Israel.

        It is this: give Israel everything it demands and – of course! – the Israelis will be so grateful that they’ll be generous.

        Except….. Israel simply takes the bribe and ignores the advice.

        Indeed, Israel does that so often that you’d almost think that Ross was deliberately acting as Israel’s shill.

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      • Weiss

        Another right Wing Fascist Brown-Shirt chirps but fails to grasp the FACT that Israel has LOST the PR war.

        The extremists seek to identify their desires with “all Jews” both to force support and to hide behind them with accusations of antisemitism. This manipulation is fundamentally dishonest, and is therefore a form of antisemitism itself.

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    11. Wolff Alterman

      Mr Omer-man,

      You are a fool. But thanks for forwarding the false but ever-present “moral equivalence” argument. The Palestinians have had numerous opportunities to have a state of their own, and it is not Israel’s fault that their leadership and the rest of the Arab world prefers to keep their people in perpetual suffering as they endlessly focus on Israel’s destruction rather than creating their own success.

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      • Brian

        Interesting. Authoritatively refutes 95% of the crap by the right wing here.

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      • Pedro X

        Aaron David Miller presents a reality check:

        “Stop Blaming Bibi”

        “Sorry, folks: Benjamin Netanyahu is not the reason there is no Middle East peace.”

        “I really like Bill Clinton. I used to work for the guy. But let’s be clear. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a much better deal than Clinton offered Yasir Arafat. The Palestinians didn’t accept it.”

        “If I hear one more time that we’re “this close” to an agreement, I’m going to toss my lunch. Even if we were, it’s the political will that’s missing — not the clever diplomatic formulae. And we’re not even close in any case. On Jerusalem, refugees, security, and even the borders of the prospective Palestinian state, there are wide differences between Israel and the Palestinians — and within the Israeli and Palestinian camps, too. This silly notion that everyone knows generally what the solution will be — and that therefore getting there should be easy — only trivializes how hard it’s going to be to reach a conflict-ending accord. Details matter.”

        ” Netanyahu not only shapes Middle East politics, he is also a product of his political surroundings. To regard him — and much of the country he leads — as solipsistic entities that exist in a vacuum independent of other factors, some of which are beyond Israel’s control, is ridiculous.

        The Palestinian house is a mess not just because of Israel — the differences between Hamas and Fatah are real and durable. Neither Barak nor Olmert could reach an agreement, either. As for the Israeli people, it’s not unreasonable to assume their current conservative attitude and interest in peace is shaped by their own assessment of how their neighbors are behaving. And that’s not an altogether rosy picture, to say the least.

        We can choose to pretend that the main obstacle standing in the way of Israeli-Palestinian peace is Bibi. That explanation suits our need to personalize problems, find easily digestible answers, and turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a morality play that pits the forces of right against wrong. But it’s also fundamentally incorrect: Netanyahu may not be the Israeli leader capable of leading his country to a conflict-ending agreement with the Palestinians, but he’s not the single most important or only reason we don’t have one.”


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        • Brian

          Here’s the real deal on what happened between Olmert and Abbas. Should forever retire the misinformation peddled about Abbas. And put into correct perspective Netanyahu’s rejectionism. It also provides a nice summary, complete with a simple, useful map, of the problem with Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Efrat:


          A Plan for Peace That Still Could Be

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    12. Mikesailor

      Gilbert: The US does not “bribe” Israel in order to keep “somewhat structure..”. If that was the reason then Israel has been an abject failure. The US funds Israel because the campaign contributions and the media saturation have heavily Zionist predilections. Do you think that if the US Jews decided to slow or halt funding to the so-called “Jewish” state that the funding would continue? That israel would still receive free weaponry? Or they would still be able to brutalize and humiliate American citizens, let alone Palestinians, with impunity? Follow the money and the purchase of so-called “influence” and you will find the answer.

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    13. Yeah Right

      Ross’ predictably tedious op-ed is exactly what you would expect from a man universally known as “Israel’s lawyer”.

      You can read that op-ed and not even be aware that Israel is a military occupier, or that the Palestinians are subject to the longest belligerent occupation in modern history.

      Predictable, I suppose, but what was most interesting were the “reader picks”.

      You had to go a looooooong way down that list to find anyone willing to pretend that Ross had a point, rather than arguing (as the top picks were arguing) that Ross has a prejudice.

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      • Bryan

        Spot on. It is staggering to review ‘Readers’ Picks’ on any article on the Middle East and see just how out of touch the New York Times is with broad opinion among its readership. Similarly, on so many issues, the US government seems completely out of touch with the views of the electorate. How does the elite so often trump the popular consensus within a democracy?

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    14. US Citizen

      How about Dennis Ross? This cheese whiz ‘negotiating’ for 30 years with no productive results to his name, the best israeli lawyer AIPAC dollars could buy in the US goverment.

      It is a matter of record that Abbas has negotiated with 18 israeli governments all the while israel continued it’s apartheid rampage, land and resource theft, killings, and oppression all the while blaming the Palestinians.

      What does Ross suggest; that Abbas sit down for another 18 years of ‘negotiations’ while israel continues it’s apartheid rampage? That israel, again, uses ‘negotiations’ as a cover for settlement activities He has wised up to the problems of his previous approach. More power to him.

      While he declines negotiations the world is now seeing that it’s not the Palestinians that were the problem but the israelis all along.

      But, a couple good things will come out of this. The Palestinians will eventually have to thank the israelis for building them all those nice houses free of charge and of course the jews can stay and live in Palestine if they want to but they will be subject to Palestinians laws – up to and including home dispossession.

      Better yet, ship all those illegal settler terrorist squats to the Negev who complain, burn land, tear down olive trees, burn mosques, run over, kill, and beat Palestinians and let them be ‘pioneers’ there. They deserve to wander in their own desert for the next 40 years.

      You, Dennis, and your other hapless pro israelis, act like none of us here can read, disseminate information, google, or see the reality that the israelis are no partner for peace.

      Someone who invades, kills, bombs, oppressess, occupies, and then tries like hell to spin it inspite of all the facts out here, is not interested in peace and that’s israel.

      And one more thing, for how long did you think that israel would be allowed to arrest and piss on Palestinian children, steal and destroy Palestinian land, enforce a barbaric siege against Gaza, murder peaceful protesters, look the other way while settlers murder Palestinians with impunity and just get away with it?

      The Palestinians are not the problem, israel, their failed policies, oppression of legitimite heirs to Palestine, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, their moldavian thug of an FM, the ragtag IDF, and the systematic effort to wipe out a culture and people who were there before them is the problem.

      Israel is the problem. And until you get it Dennis, israel will go on destroying itself, if not demographically, then morally. Is that clear enough for an obtuse person like you to understand? Good.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Brian

      Part 4 of Peter Beinart’s excellent takedown of Dennis Ross:


      4) The Palestinians are professional victims

      In his fourth paragraph, Ross offers a cultural explanation for the Palestinians’ refusal to make peace: They’re whiners. “Palestinian political culture,” he writes, “is rooted in a narrative of injustice; its anti-colonialist bent and its deep sense of grievance treats concessions to Israel as illegitimate.” To which our friendly editor might reply: Yikes! In the West Bank, Palestinians are denied citizenship and the right to vote in the country in which they live. They live without free movement and under martial law. Yet according to Ross, they’ve concocted a “narrative” of injustice. If only they weren’t so post-modern.

      Then there’s Ross’ idea that “Palestinian political culture” sees “concessions to Israel as illegitimate.” The Palestine Liberation Organization publicly recognized Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state 22 years ago. Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rejected the Palestinians’ right to the same thing last summer. Yet it’s the Palestinians who suffer from a pathology of intransigence.

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      • Yeah, Right

        The comment is spot-on: the suggestion that the Palestinian have a sense of injustice is because….. they are suffering an injustice.

        In Ross-world(tm) what is needed is the Palestinians to agree to the endless perpetuation of that injustice, after which they will be on the same page as the Israeli-American duopoly.

        And in Ross-world(tm) if everyone agrees to endless injustice then that = “peace”.

        It’s an odd concept, since everyone else recognizes that for what it is: “Palestinian surrender” leading to “endless servitude to Israel”.

        Which in Ross-world(tm) would be Heaven On Earth, but everyone else would see as An Injustice.

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    16. Brian

      Beinart’s conclusion:

      “The Palestinians will get nothing while on their knees.”

      “Reasonable people can debate the timing of the Palestinians’ UN and ICC bids. But beneath these tactical questions lies this core truth: The Palestinians will get nothing while on their knees. If Benjamin Netanyahu’s prime ministership has done anything, it has borne out the truth that Frederick Douglass spoke long ago: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” As a liberal, I want the Palestinians to demand nonviolently. As a Zionist and a pragmatist, I want them to demand a state alongside Israel, not in its place. But as a Jew who this week begins reading the Book of Exodus – which calls us to “remember the heart of the stranger” – I cannot deny the Palestinians’ right to demand the same freedoms that we demand for ourselves. And I cannot ask them to wait.

      It would be wonderful if Palestinians could win those freedoms without causing Jews discomfort. But it hasn’t happened that way because it never happens that way. People are not given freedom; they take it. “What matters is not what the goyim say,” said David Ben-Gurion, “but what the Jews do.” Mahmoud Abbas is finally taking that maxim to heart. He’s tired of relying on the benevolence of Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. He’s doing it the Zionist way. Were Dennis Ross in his place, I suspect he would too.”

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    17. Phil Fumble

      Brian, in contrast, you get an enormous amount on your knees Lol

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    18. Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man –
      I want to point out again that the person calling himself Phil Fumble sounds exactly like the person who called himself Sluggo. I’m sick of his homoerotic overtures. I’m sure there are numerous websites that would cater specifically to his stalking/sexual harrassment, but I don’t think its this one.

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