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‘It is time to make it costly for Palestinians,’ Ross warns in NYT; and readers reject his argument

In an op-ed in the New York Times today, longtime US peace-processor Dennis Ross calls on the world to “Stop Giving Palestinians a Pass” for their refusal to accept three supposed peace deals.Ross hints at punishment for the Palestinians:

It is time to make it costly for them to focus on symbols rather than substance.

As if the occupation has been a pleasant experience for Palestinians, and the arrival of Zionist settlers 100 years ago a blessing.

Ross, who has been described as Israel’s “advocate” and Israel’s lawyer when he led American peace negotiations, praises three supposed offers by Israel in 2000, 2008 and 2014:

In each case, a proposal on all the core issues was made to Palestinian leaders and the answer was either “no” or no response. They determined that the cost of saying “yes,” or even of making a counteroffer that required concessions, was too high.

But in 2000 and 2008 the Palestinians would have had to give up large portions of territory east of the ’67 lines to Israel, blocs where Israeli colonists live. As for 2014, John Kerry didn’t even get around to a deal. Then Israel slaughtered more than 500 children in Gaza.

Ross’s argument borders on racism when he belittles Palestinian political culture:

Palestinian political culture is rooted in a narrative of injustice; its anticolonialist bent and its deep sense of grievance treats concessions to Israel as illegitimate. Compromise is portrayed as betrayal

But all people have a right to resist occupation, and colonialism is supposed to be a thing of the past. In fact Palestinians have made the greatest compromise, agreeing to accept a state on less than 1/4 of the land, in 1988, a deal Israel has never been able to follow through on, in no small measure because of the tender offices of Ross, who presumed to negotiate as a fair third party.

Donald Johnson says, I was going to blow up at Ross’s column today, but the readers at the NYT did a superb job tearing him apart.  Even the NYT “picks” included a number of good responses (though I think they consistently avoid picking the guy who consistently ranks near the top of the reader lists–Mark Thomason). The pro-Ross pieces are weak at best, and go downhill from there.

Mark Thomason writes, in the top readers’ pick:

Mr. Ross ought to have grasped by now that the Palestinians are not going to accept one-sided offers worked out between the Israelis and their American lawyers of everything Israel wants, leftovers for Palestine unless Israel wants more.

They are doing this precisely because they cannot negotiate with people who think like Ross. It is useless to talk with them. The Peace Process was a fraud, and anyway the Israeli leadership under Netanyahu openly campaigned against it and everything wrought in Oslo.

Force them to talk? Ross means force them to accept Israeli terms as a diktat.

That hasn’t worked for decades, and it ought to be clear by now it won’t ever work. Actually, it seems likely from the moving of goalposts that it was never meant to work, just used to cover the making of facts on the ground.

And adds:

It is disgusting that guys like Ross now define peace as automatically including settlement building. Anywhere the Israelis “expect” to keep is theirs, and peace means accepting that.

More readers’ picks; Fadia echoes that idea:

The title should be “Stop Giving Israelis a Pass”. The Palestinians have been negotiating in good faith for decades and all they got is more occupation and illegal settlements. The Palestinians have already offered Israel a very generous deal, they want a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is 22% of historic Palestine and less than half of the land given to them by the UN partition. The world must hold Israel accountable for it’s ongoing violations and the U.S must stop supporting Israel’s crimes against the occupied, oppressed and horribly abused Palestinians.

David Underwood:

The Palestinians are living in an Israeli controlled ghetto. All their goods, supplies, energy, and even water is under the control of Israel.

They have had their land confiscated and taken by settlers encouraged by the Israeli government. There are five million of them living in exile, they are not even allowed to visit with their own relatives, they can not get passports or visas

abo in Paris:

This editorial is nonsense. The international community is clear on what a just peace would like like: pre-67 land returned to Palestine, recognition of Israel, some kind or right-of-return or compensation paid to Palestinian refugees. Israel has staked out a position so far away from this peace that compromise means there would be no justice.

Joe Manley:

It’s astonishing to me that (presumably) intelligent writers can keep adding their voices to the bleating chorus describing Palestinian actions at the UN, or pursuit of ICC membership, as “one-sided” or “unilateral.” The hypocrisy of this position almost defies comment, as the entire Israel/Palestine conflict consists of unilateral Israeli actions. Maintaining a brutal, humiliating military occupation is a unilateral action. Building illegal settlements is a unilateral action. Erecting an illegal separation wall is a unilateral action. Having recourse to international institutions is neither one-sided nor unilateral – it’s an option that every national group should have, free from persecution or retribution. Especially so in the case of a party as powerless and abused as Palestine.


When you have nothing–and that nothing gets smaller and smaller as Israel gobbles up your remaining, but still occupied, territory, it takes a lot of “chutzpah” to ask Palestinians to give something for peace with Israel.

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson are NY writers and regular contributors to this site

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23 Responses

  1. amigo on January 5, 2015, 7:23 pm

    I dislike dershowitz intensely but this lying scheming disgusting two faced jerk , I detest.

    He is a racist supremacist apologist for war crimes and should be clapped in Irons and jailed for life.

    • straightline on January 5, 2015, 8:40 pm

      You’re too kind, amigo.

      • oldgeezer on January 6, 2015, 12:33 am

        Too kind to dersh? Yes they are both despicable.

      • Vikram on January 7, 2015, 6:22 am

        I hate to use of such derogatory words as “scumbag” to describe a person, as all human beings are worthy of respect but I relent in the case of Dershowitz. He is the epitome of that word.

    • Kay24 on January 6, 2015, 2:07 am

      I think many would agree with you here. They live in delusion. Imagine a person who fully supports a brutal occupier, asking the world to stop giving the occupied a pass.
      I wonder what he must be smoking. Sounds awful.

    • Shingo on January 6, 2015, 4:25 pm

      I dislike dershowitz intensely but this lying scheming disgusting two faced jerk , I detest.

      Me too. It like Bill Krystol. These lying, two faces, hypocritical slime balls should be social outcasts yet they continue to be treated as authorities and given credibility.

  2. lonely rico on January 5, 2015, 8:09 pm

    Skimmed through the first 25-30 ‘reader’s picks’ responses to Ross’s NYT op-ed –
    Might be summed up –
    “We see through your nonsense, no longer tolerate your absurdities.
    You’re an irrelevant old fool.
    Spare us your humbug, and be gone.”

    To which I would add an emphatic –
    YES !

    • Shingo on January 6, 2015, 4:30 pm

      I like this one from Pete Ann Arbor Yesterday:

      It seems strange that Mr. Ross would reject the involvement of the institutions designed to create formal and impartial international accountability and then call for more accountability in the same breath. It is also interesting that he calls for more accountability from the Palestinians only.

  3. CloakAndDagger on January 5, 2015, 9:27 pm

    How could we have placed him in the role of peace negotiator with Israel, and with a straight face claimed that we were fair and balanced? The whole world is laughing at us, and deservedly so.

    • oldgeezer on January 6, 2015, 12:32 am

      Well yes we have. Unfortunately you have the big guns so there is not much we can do but laugh. Ross is only the tip of the iceberg and the US has never been impartial participant in the supposed peace process.

      All we can do is hope that at some point the US either withdraws or takes an impartial or neutral view. So far it has only facilitated the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the GoI.

    • Boomer on January 6, 2015, 6:19 am

      “How could we have placed him in the role of peace negotiator with Israel, and with a straight face claimed that we were fair and balanced?”

      Not “we” . . . our leaders, who routinely do the will of the rich and powerful and of special interests, our leaders who lie and act with impunity.

  4. jenin on January 5, 2015, 9:36 pm

    Ross’s hypocrisy is actually stunning. I can’t believe he could write– and the NYT would publish– this title and column with a straight face. I was glad to see a lot of the comments but a bit dismayed at the number of pro- israel comments. Although they continually get more and more shrill, repetitive and off- topic (Hamas, terrorism, blahblahblah). Now if the times wants to maintain any semblance of credibility, it should give space to someone credible responding to this column and explaining why the ICC move is good

    • Boomer on January 6, 2015, 4:00 pm

      @Jenin Younes, “Ross’s hypocrisy is actually stunning.”

      Yes, it is, though not unique. I’ve long been stunned at the way Israel’s advocates seem to invert reality: up is down, black is white, victim is oppressor. It can be an effective rhetorical/political technique. One doesn’t know where to start in response; even the attempt to respond validates the irrational. Israel’s advocates are not alone in using such a technique–think of “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth–but they seem to deploy it with great frequency and power. I’ve wondered why. Perhaps it is simply that those who receive the most attention are those most skilled at telling the big lie with a straight face. Lawyers, salesmen, politicians and others may find such skill useful.

      A recent poster here (seafoid, if memory serves) indirectly suggested to me another, more convoluted explanation. He linked to an essay by David Shulman, titled “Gaza: the Murderous Melodrama” as the source for this quote:

      “One has to bear in mind that Israelis live in a largely mythic world, a somewhat modified and vastly simplified version of the Iliad. In this starkly polarized vision of reality, in which Israelis are by definition innocent victims of dark, irrational forces operating against them, heroic death in war always makes sense, and violent coercion is the option both of necessity and of choice. The Hebrew proverb says: “If force doesn’t work, use more force.” But this summer the proverb failed to deliver.”

      Actually, I don’t think the poster included the proverb, but it too seems relevant. He alluded to the “ignorance” of in insular Hebrew culture. I don’t know whether there is any truth to that (having never been to Israel), but Ross is clearly not ignorant, or lacking in knowledge of the world and of history, at least not on one level. But is it possible that at another level he, like the Israelis Shulman describes, “lives in a largely mythic world?” Is it possible that by some mental trick he writes and speaks as Israel’s advocate out of that imaginary mental space, rather as one in touch with 21st century reality?

      If so, I might speculate (and, being no psychologist, I am simply speculating, asking for insight from those better-informed) that some cognitive dissonance arises, even in a lawyerly mind like that of Ross? Is it possible that such dissonance adds intensity to the rejection of reality? The greater the departure from reality, the more energy that must be poured into the projection, suppression, or other defense mechanisms the individual uses.

      Regardless of the explanation, nothing excuses the oppression of the Palestinians, nothing excuses America’s support for that oppression.

      • Shingo on January 6, 2015, 5:42 pm

        Fascinating points you raised Boomer.

        One doesn’t know where to start in response; even the attempt to respond validates the irrational.

        That reminds me of a favourite quote. “never argue with an idiot, they drag you down to their level then beat you with experience”. Indeed that applies here, because once you engage with the absurd arguments these lunatics bring up finds you debating issues of genetics, religion, and all manner of crap.

        As for the cognitive dissonance argument, I think it might explain the likes of Ross, but it doesn’t explain the flippery of people like Power. Once say she’s suggesting that aid be withheld from Israel and better spent supporting the Palestinians then following a phone call from Shmuley Boteach, she’s immediately transformed into a Dershowtiz mini me.

        People like Ross are predictable in that they stick to the same talking points and are careful to avoid having to confront opposition views. They never even address the contradictory arguments or opposing views, even though they surely must be familiar with them. That way, he and his ilk can safely repeat the vacuous talking points free from contradiction and refutation. Indeed, I am sure it also helps them assuage their conscience.

        You may be familiar with the reaction Martin Indyk gave on Democracy Now, when he found out that Finkelstein was in the studio with Amy Goodman and protested that he had been ambushed and threatened to walk out.

        Now why would someone who is supposed to be such an expert and authority on the matter be so afraid of an impromptu debate? Could anyone imagine Max Blumenthal being put in that position? He would relish it and say bring it on.

    • Shingo on January 6, 2015, 4:32 pm

      Ross’s hypocrisy is actually stunning. I can’t believe he could write– and the NYT would publish– this title and column with a straight face.

      Even more alarming is the handful of comments (albeit few and far between) that claim he is stating the truth or agree with him. Surely they are getting the message based on all the other comments that they now represent the fringe.

  5. Steve Macklevore on January 6, 2015, 3:59 am

    I always remember the Clinton administration showing fairness and balance by sending an entirely Jewish negotiating team to mediate between the Palestinians and Israelis.

    When Palestinians and others pointed this out, they were accused of racism…

  6. waleedrefugee on January 6, 2015, 8:24 am

    A funny program in the USA was called (Denise the menace) Denise since being involved in the peace process has been turned it into a mess!!! Two states on one land is the only solution!!! You like it or not.

  7. Misterioso on January 6, 2015, 11:53 am

    For the record:

    Israel’s mouthpiece Dennis Ross criticizes Arafat for rejecting Israel’s peace offer at Camp David in 2000.


    Working in tandem, Barak and Clinton tried to shove a very bad deal down Arafat’s throat.
    It could only be rejected. Suffice to quote Shlomo Ben-Ami, then Israel’s foreign minister and lead negotiator at Camp David: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.” (National Public Radio, 14 February 2006.)

    • Shingo on January 6, 2015, 4:34 pm

      Yes, I do love that quote from Ben Ami.

      What Ross and his ilk also refuse to mention every time is that it was Barak that walked away from Taba six months later, after both sides stated they were on the verge of an agreement.

  8. AngelaJahalin on January 6, 2015, 3:59 pm

    I wanna see Dennis Ross live without water, sovereignty, borders, access to holy sites, recognition of centuries’ old land deeds, protection of international law and with the IDF still out there on all the islands of the archipelago where 600,000 colonialists are lurking , presumably with the checkpoints and Wall still growing cancerously (oh we’d find an excuse to continue!!), and the Grim Reaper regularly mowing the lawn. And then call all that a generous offer !! Which planet is this guy living on? His own Bermuda Triangle? La-la land? Jeez, one more NUT in this mess of loons !! Give us strength! [Sigh]

    Maybe one day, in old age, he’ll begin to meditate not just on whether he screwed up, but on whether he also failed us Israelis. Big-time.

  9. just on January 6, 2015, 6:11 pm

    Never, ever believed him all these long years.

    Glad he exposed himself. He pocketed US taxpayers’ money for decades in service to Israel alone.

  10. DaBakr on January 8, 2015, 4:36 pm

    well, naturally I prefer this comment to the others quoted:

    spectator New Hyde Park 2 days ago
    A “peace” agreement with Abbas (as remote as that is) will be exactly that and that only. There will be continuing war with Hamas, Hezbullah and the other Iranian proxies, and the millions upon millions of Islamic extremists in the Arab and Muslim world. Abbas does not even represent a majority of the Palestinian Arabs who want Israel gone totally.
    An Abbas agreement will result in major and irrevocable Israeli concessions for nothing.
    The core problem is the same as it was 67 years ago. The majority of Palestinian Arabs do not accept the existence of the state of Israel. Abbas refuses to utter the words “two states for two peoples”. Why?
    Remember, the “Palestinian People” elected Hamas, an internationally recognized terror gang that openly states its goal of destroying Israel. Given this Arab position, how can there ever be peace?

    I would add in fairness that Israel has its hands deep in Abbas’s pockets and had a hand in the creation of Hamas both through unintended and intended consequences. such is the case when people say the me is more then just ‘complicated’. simplifying is easier said then done since there are at least 12 definitions of what ‘simplify’ means and who enforces it.

    • straightline on January 10, 2015, 4:37 pm

      To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, “You would, wouldn’t you.” But instead of repeating your comfortable myths, why don’t you respond to talknic’s question on the “Media obsesses …” thread. Too hard to supply real evidence to support your myths?

      Incidentally Hamas is no longer regarded as a terror organisation by the EU General Court. Zionist propaganda is beginning to wear thin.

      What’s your stance on terrorist organisations like Irgun and the Stern Gang?

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