Daily Israel Report

Dennis Ross Joins State Dept as Special Adviser to Clinton

Seasoned Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross has returned to politics, this time as Special Adviser to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 2/24/2009, 9:52 AM

Israel News Photo: (file)

Former senior U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross has been pressed back into service as Special Adviser on Persian Gulf affairs to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The position includes advising Clinton on issues surrounding Iran, the Gulf region, the broader Middle East region, and southwest Asia.

The appointment was announced Monday by State Department spokesman Robert Wood, who noted,"This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law." 

He added that "Ambassador Ross brings a wealth of experience not just to issues within the region but also to larger political-military challenges that flow from the area and have an impact outside of the Gulf and Southwest Asia, and the secretary looks forward to drawing on that experience and diplomatic perspective." 

U.S. Senator George Mitchell was appointed last month as the Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East. Equally seasoned diplomat Richard Holbrooke was appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Seen in U.S. as Pro-Israel Appointment
Ross helped write the speech delivered at the AIPAC convention by President Barack Obama during his campaign last year, and served as an official adviser to the campaign.

The long-time diplomat has said he believes that negotiations between the Jewish State and the Palestinian Authority should be contingent on the PA taking responsibility for preventing violence in any location vacated by Israel.

Ross has said he is opposed to unilateral withdrawals and noted in the past that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 strengthened the position of the Hizbullah terrorist organization there. He also opposes setting a timeline for creation of a PA state, according to Who Runs Government.

The new Special Adviser supports Israel's right to build a security barrier for self-defense, but believes it should be temporary.

He also reportedly supports peace talks between Syria and Israel and negotiations over the Golan Heights.

In addition, Ross has said he believes that Iran must be stopped at all costs from "going nuclear."

No Novice to Middle East Diplomacy
The appointment returns Ross to a forum with which he is exceedingly familiar, having served in a similar capacity under Clinton's husband Bill when he was president. 

As Middle East coordinator during the Clinton administration, Dennis Ross served from 1993 to 2001 as the top negotiator for the U.S. between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, headed at that time by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat.

Ross also served under President Ronald Reagan in 1981 as the director of Near East and South Asian Affairs for the administration's national security staff.

In addition, Ross served the Bush administration as well – that is, the administration of President George H. Bush, former President George W. Bush's father. During those years, Ross worked as the director of the State Department's Policy Planning office under then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.

Ross left government service in the year 2000 to head the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank described by Who Runs Government as "hawkish" and "with a pro-Israeli bent."  Together with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, Ross founded the Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville, Maryland in 2002.