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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dennis Ross on the Obama administration's cooperation with Israel

Over the weekend, Dennis Ross spoke to AIPAC about the 'unprecedented' level of security cooperation between Israel and the United States.
Before I leave you today, I’d like to say a few words about the Obama administration’s relationship with Israel, which is of course foremost on your minds.

I was fortunate to be able to visit Israel with then-Senator Obama in the summer of 2008. I saw through his engagements with Israeli officials and with the Israeli people, including in Sderot, that he immediately understood Israel’s unique situation, its achievements, and the many threats it still faces. The President has insisted repeatedly that our commitment to Israel is rock solid. I see this commitment every day in the serious and unique manner in which we work to improve Israel’s security.

Just last week, I participated in the U.S.-Strategic Dialogue, a biannual event that includes a comprehensive exchange of views on regional issues crucial to both the United State and Israel. It is a serious discussion among inter-agency representatives from both sides, and this administration has upgraded the level of our participation.

But more importantly, the Strategic Dialogue is just one of many, ongoing, and high-level exchanges that occur regularly between the United States in Israel. I’m not aware of another country that we engage more regularly on such a wide range of issues. These types of exchanges not only provide opportunities for discussion of ideas on policy, but they also help solidify connections between our two governments. Over the last two years, I have seen four-star generals, intelligence officers, and high-ranking diplomats all develop personal relationships with their Israelis counterparts.

Frankly, this degree of coordination is unprecedented. I have participated in these types of discussions for the last 30 years, and they have never been as intense or focused, reflecting the serious cooperation that we have today with Israel.

But our commitment to Israel’s security is defined not by talk. It is defined by the kinds of actions and deeds that help make both of our countries safer and stronger in the face of common threats. This year, President Obama decided to supplement our annual $3 billion in military assistance to Israel with a $205 million request to Congress to support Israel’s indigenously-developed Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. This assistance comes in addition to the existing multi-year commitments we have made for jointly developing Israel’s David’s Sling and Arrow missile defense systems.

Our military regularly conducts exercises with the IDF, including the JUNIPER COBRA ballistic missile defense exercise in Israel a year ago that involved 1300 U.S. servicemen and women, as well as other exercises involving our Navy, Marines, and Air Force. These commitments are real. They are tangible. And they solidify the truly special relationship between the United States and Israel.

This administration’s commitment to Israel has also been demonstrated in our work to defeat efforts in international organizations to single out or delegitimize Israel. Most recently, we successfully coordinated the opposition to a resolution at the IAEA General Conference singling out Israel’s nuclear program for rebuke. A similar resolution passed in 2009, but together with our international partners, we defeated the resolution last month in part because the Obama administration has restored America’s standing in international organizations. We will continue to stand up for Israel in these organizations, but there should be no mistake that our efforts are strengthened when Israel is actively participating in peace negotiations. [Of course, he forgets about the call for a nuclear-free Middle East in April when the Obama administration sacrificed Israel for the conference's 'success.' CiJ].

I don’t have time to go through how we are working intensively to jump-start negotiations today, but I do want to close with a couple of points about the need for peace and the importance for both sides to take the strategic and historic decisions that are required to preserve a two-state solution before it is too late.

First, while we will continue to do whatever we can to support Israel’s security needs and to fight efforts to delegitimize Israel, the only true way for Israel to gain the long-term security it deserves is through a genuine peace with its neighbors [who have no interest in legitimizing Israel through peace. CiJ]. There is a struggle today in the region between radicals and pragmatists, between those aligned with Iran and those who are not, between those who reject peace and those who are prepared to coexist with Israel. It is in our interests and in Israel’s interests for the pragmatists to succeed in that struggle. It is in our mutual interests to strengthen the pragmatists and discredit the narrative of the rejectionists – and real progress toward peace can make a significant difference in this struggle.

Second, there has been remarkable progress on the ground in the West Bank over the past two years in security and the economy. I remember conversations not so long ago with Israeli security officials doubting that Palestinian security forces could ever take serious steps against terrorism. Today, the situation is very different. Palestinian security forces have reached new levels of training and professionalism, and they coordinate more closely than ever with their Israeli counterparts. They are committed to stopping the kind of violence that only feeds the conflict. Just last week, Palestinian security forces uncovered a large cache of weapons in Ramallah that can no longer be used in support of terrorism. These positive developments will be difficult to sustain if the prospects for peace look less and less real.

Third, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority is building the kinds of transparent and effective institutions required for a functioning, independent state. Fayyad has said many times that he models his efforts in part after Ben-Gurion’s record of building the institutions of Israel so that the state could function once it was established. Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas represent unique Palestinian leaders committed to non-violence, negotiations, and state-building [then why does 'Palestinian Authority' television, which is under their control, continue to incite against Israel? CiJ]. Their interest in peace represents a strategic opening and it should not be lost. [Their interest in peace? You mean their refusal to negotiate without an Obama-originated 'settlement freeze'? CiJ]

Now, no one is more familiar with the challenges of reaching an agreement than I am. And there are serious and difficult issues that must be resolved both in the near-term and in the long-run to achieve an agreement and ensure that it lasts. I am certainly under no illusions about how hard that will be. But no one should underestimate the strategic importance of peace for Israelis, for Palestinians, and for the United States.

I hope that as you continue to advocate on behalf of the United States and Israel, you will continue to advocate for peace, security, and the decisions that will be necessary to realize these objectives.
I've put some comments inside. Let me add one more: Obama's continuing failure to even visit Israel makes it clear to Israelis that he holds a visceral hostility to us. No continuation of exercises like Juniper Cobra (started by previous administrations) will change that perception.


At 6:01 AM, Blogger Eliana said...

Dennis Ross thinks that Obama can make peace in the Middle East IF ONLY Obama and/or Dennis Ross can convince Jews in general and Israel's Jews in particular that peace is a nice thing.

Dennis, peace isn't available.

It would be nice to have Star Trek space ships that zoom across the galaxy and beam people from one place to another, but these things are not available to us right now either.

The problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict is NOT that Israelis don't want peace.

It's not on the menu, Dennis.

It's not in a catalog or on a list of links that we can click on a website.

There's no way to make a deal to live in peace with people who don't intend to sign an agreement that lets Israel remain in the Middle East as a nation at all.

Dennis, I think you should promote space travel around the galaxy and beaming as a way to move from place to place.

It's more realistic than what you're trying to sell now.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Well said, Eliana! LOL!!


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