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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dennis Ross tries to school Obama-Kerry

Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross does a good job of trying to school President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry on the new realities of the Middle East. But will they listen?
Turkey and Qatar share Hamas’ goal of having it gain—meaning that the fighting ends, the siege of Gaza is lifted and no safeguards are adopted on materials going into the Strip that would inhibit Hamas’ ability to reconstitute its military infrastructure of rockets and tunnels. It is not just Israel that cannot accept that outcome. Neither can the Egyptians, Saudis or their regional allies. And, truth be told, it is still Egypt that matters. Egypt controls the crossing point at Rafah, the southern entrance to Gaza, and it is closed. Today, ironically, the only crossing points into Gaza that function at all are the Israeli ones. So when this conflict ends, Egypt can have a huge impact on what and who can move in and out of Gaza.

That gives Egypt leverage. Its relationship with Israel matters, and Israeli confidence that Egypt shares its interest in not allowing Hamas to reconstitute its military capabilities means that Egypt can influence Israel’s position. Ultimately, Egypt can also influence Hamas because, at a minimum, Hamas needs Rafah to be open at the end of the conflict—even if Egypt, as is likely, will insist that the Palestinian Authority is positioned in the Rafah crossing point. To be sure, it is possible that to end the conflict, Egypt may also acquiesce in allowing Qatar to pay the Hamas salaries and to allow that money to pass through Rafah. But Egypt’s approach toward Hamas, which it sees as contributing to the threats it faces in Sinai, is to keep it contained and, the Egyptians will have that as a goal in any cease-fire they broker.
The point is that the conflict is going to end. It can end through a negotiated outcome in which we focus on Egypt and not Turkey or Qatar. Or it will end when Israel has destroyed the tunnels and Hamas sees that its arsenal of rockets is running too low and that the price within Gaza has become too high. Kerry, to his credit, envisioned the cease-fire he was trying to arrange as one in which fighting would stop but Israel could finish destroying the tunnels. It has not worked yet, but if the United States works exclusively through the Egyptians, it may yet happen.
There is a larger point for the Obama administration to consider, too. It needs to read the new strategic landscape in the region and act accordingly. That landscape should shape our calculus as we approach the larger questions of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In its remaining two and half years, the administration needs to approach the Middle East with a broader goal and judge how its day-to-day policies support or detract from that goal: How can it ensure that U.S. friends in the region are stronger in January 2017, and their adversaries (and ours) are weaker? Ultimately, President Obama and Secretary Kerry would be wise to approach the current conflict, and its end, with that objective in mind.
Read the whole thing.

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At 6:35 PM, Blogger CliffB said...

I saw Ross speak to an Aipac group in 2008 during election season. He was carrying the water hard for then Candidate Obama and vouching for the then unkown quantity Obama was viz Israel. But then again, Ross was clearly angling for a potential spot within the coming O administration. He did get an appointment, I believe to some Iranian affairs position. Eventually he left from being ignored or marginalized by Administration policy makers. Ross is no doubt a smart fellow and well versed in diplomatic know-how; but he's a multi-time loser at his many vain and credulous ventures into the Israeli-Arab morasses.


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