WP: Dennis Ross is Netanyahu’s man in the White House

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Here’s a shocking/obvious story (my emotional terrain alas) from yesterday’s Washington Post by hardworking Glenn Kessler about how Dennis Ross is now the “back channel” between Obama and Netanyahu.

Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East expert, has emerged as a crucial, behind-the-scenes conduit between the White House and the Israeli government, working closely with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s private attorney – and also Defense Minister Ehud Barak – to discreetly smooth out differences and disputes between the two governments.

What’s missing from this piece is the context: Dennis Ross is the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute of Israel, which opposes assimilation and intermarriage; he is a former leader of the Israel lobby who has argued that it does not exist, and he is now installed in the Obama administration in a crucial role, and why? Because he has great authority in the Jewish community, that’s why. Because his presence says to the conservative and wealthy Jewish community, Obama won’t sell us out. No wonder this guy has survived from Republican to Democratic administrations, his constituency transcends party. No wonder that MJ Rosenberg has written that Netanyahu is more powerful than Obama.

Question for the Washington Post: Is there any pro-Arab counterpart to Dennis Ross? Of course not. Shouldn’t your article have pointed this out?

The piece would also have profited from the statement Kessler himself has reported, made by Netanyahu a few years ago, “America is a thing you can move very easily.” And why can it be so easily moved? Because of money, I’m afraid, because of the lobby. Which of course cannot be named. (New rule of journalism, don’t follow the money.) Kessler:

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office. 

Israeli officials have long preferred to bypass the State Department and peace envoys, and deal directly with a senior official in the White House. Former officials from Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s administrations said the Israelis think that the White House ultimately makes foreign policy and are convinced that the State Department is too pro-Arab.

…Netanyahu “was looking for such a channel at first and couldn’t find one,” a person close to the administration said. 

Ross’s role became more pronounced after Obama shifted course this year and decided to improve his relationship with Netanyahu.

“Very few players are involved,” said an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The prime minister has said it is crucial that we do this in a discreet and quiet fashion.”

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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