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Ross: Israel and PA Must Approach Peace with Urgency

Dennis Ross speaks at Presidential Conference, says that since MIddle East is not static, peace talks cannot be static either.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/23/2011, 2:57 AM / Last Update: 6/23/2011, 3:13 AM

Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the Central Region at the National Security Council, said on Wednesday at the Israeli Presidential Conference that it is important for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to understand the urgency with which they must approach the peace process.

Ross, who spoke during a panel entitled “Global Perspective for Tomorrow,” said the recent Arab Spring brought uncertainty to the area and added that the U.S. opposes violence and encourages the aspirations of the Arab people to be free.

He added that the Arab Spring has shown that the status quo in the region cannot remain and that the area cannot be static, and then said that this is also the case on the issue of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“At this pivotal moment,” said Ross, “the greatest risk of all is to sit back and do nothing. This is a moment with extraordinary promise. Isn’t it better to seek peace and to thereby discredit (those who seek to undermine Israel)?”

Ross did not mention the possibility that the Middle Eastern volatility that he referred to as "non-static" may, by the same token, make any negotiations non-binding and dangerous. This is the situation possibly developing in Egypt, whose peace treaty with Israel may not survive the change in government.

Mentioning the rockets being fired towards Israel from the Gaza region, Ross said they are a reason to be flexible when it comes to reaching a peace agreement.

Ross’ arguments did not refer to a highly likely scenario of rockets being fired at major Israeli cities, including its airport, from areas in Judea and Samaria that Israel would concede as part of a peace agreement. Local residents have expressed their fear of this happening; it is plausible especially considering the rise in rocket attacks from Gaza following the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from the region.

He referred to President Barack Obama’s recent policy speech on the Middle East, in which Obama had said, “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

Ross said that “such a formula allows parties, themselves, to account for the changes that have taken place (since 1967).” He noted, however, that the borders of the future Palestine should not be exactly the same borders that existed on June 4, 1967, since these borders are insecure and Israel should have security.

“For Israel to take risks for peace it must be secure - in word and in deed, we (the U.S.) have been unwavering in our support of Israel,” he said.

Ross encouraged all sides in the Middle East to follow the United States’ example in opposing violence, supporting rights, and urging governments to embrace reforms. Eventually, he said that the United States wants to see “all sides seize the opportunity for dialogue.”

Also taking part in the panel were Israeli President Shimon Peres who is hosting the conference, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, and Chinese Culture Minister Wu Cai.