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What Dennis Ross Said, and Didn’t Say, at J Street

Dennis Ross spoke at the J Street conference for 30 minutes this morning, and he spent most of that time trying to avoid any mention of Israel (a smart move). The first 20 minutes of his speech were about Egypt and the recent uprisings in the Middle East; the last five minutes of his speech were devoted to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And somewhere in between, he managed to squeeze in a few prosaic words about Israel.

The “status quo” in Israel is “unsustainable,” said Ross,

much applause from the audience. He continued, saying that the only method for securing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is “negotiation — there is no other.” That statement elicited far less applause.

Ross then added that the claim by Arab autocrats that “there can be no reforms until there is peace” is simply an “excuse” — a comment that was met with conspicuous silence. Clearly, many in the audience still believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the reason for the oppression across the Muslim world.

Ross escaped immediately after his speech, leaving a panel made up of author Bernard Avishai, the New York Times’s Roger Cohen, and the New America Foundation’s Daniel Levy free to mock his address onstage.

“We need a little more Dr. Kissinger and a little less Dr. Phil,” said Avishai about Ross, to enthusiastic applause.

It’s now apparent why J Street called on President Obama to withhold its veto on the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council — because, based on the sentiments of the audience, the majority of J Street’s supporters won’t accept anything less.



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