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Revisiting Dennis Ross’s Obama Endorsement

Dennis Ross is an honorable man, even though I often disagree with his faith in diplomacy (especially diplomacy with insincere adversaries) and his analysis of Iranian decision-making. He joined the Obama bandwagon early, and campaigned actively for the President. While Haaretz has put this article down its memory hole, it’s worth revisiting its 2008 interview with Dennis Ross and why he’s working for Obama.

A few points Ross made then:

• “On the question of Israel, I talk about what I saw during his trip to Israel, how I saw his understanding of the relationship with Israel—he would describe it as a commitment of the head and heart. He looks at Israel and sees us as being two countries with common values. But he also looks at Israel and sees that whatever threatens Israel also happens to threaten the United States. So we have a [common] interest, because we end up facing the same threats.”

• “At the end of the day [Obama's] position is [that] we cannot impose peace, because an imposed peace isn’t peace at all. He’s more than willing to invest in the process, but, then again, how he does it and in what ways will depend very much on the circumstances, and obviously there are many other issues out there.”

• “I think that what impressed me the most is that he has perspective. He’s very thoughtful, he knows how to ask the right questions, and he doesn’t jump to conclusions. He’s careful with his judgments and he’s not afraid to ask questions, because he’s not afraid to have people ask him questions. I think he has a kind of personal character and the kind of temperament presidents need.”

Dennis Ross remains Obama adminstration’s point man for speeches to various Jewish, Muslim, and Middle Eastern advocacy groups. Much of the Obama whom Ross described in 2008 can now safely be relegated to the realm of wishful thinking. Accordingly, it might be time for an ambitious journalist to ask whether Ross stands by his previous assessments of Obama, whether he believed he could moderate Obama, or whether he allowed ambition to get the best of him.


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