Daily Israel Report

Key Obama Liaison to Jewish Community Splits

Dennis Ross, one of President Obama’s key liaisons to the Jewish community has opted to sit out the 2012 election campaign.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 7/30/2012, 1:32 PM

Dennis Ross
Dennis Ross
Israel news photo: Flash 90

One of President Obama’s key liaisons to the Jewish community has opted to sit out the 2012 election campaign, The Daily Beast reported.

Dennis Ross, a longtime diplomat and a key architect of the Oslo peace process under President Clinton, who worked or the Obama campaign during the 2008 Democratic primaries, has stated that he won’t be campaigning for Obama this time around.

“I am the Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” Ross said in an email on Friday. “The Washington Institute is a non-profit organization and I cannot do political work from here. When I acted for the campaign in 2008, I had to take a leave of absence to do so. Having only recently returned to the Institute, I cannot now again take a leave of absence.”

While many Israel supporters do not, in fact, see Ross’s stance as being entirely “pro-Israel,” he was, nonetheless instrumental in catering to Obama’s liberal leaning Jewish constituents.

“Ambassador Ross was obviously the No. 1 pro-Israel surrogate for the Obama campaign in 2008,” said Josh Block, a former press aide for the Clinton administration and former top spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “The fact that after three years of working on Mideast policy side-by-side with the president, Ambassador Ross has decided to sit out this campaign, unlike other former top officials now at nonpartisan think tanks, will certainly be understood as a message of its own, intentionally or unintentionally.”

According to The Daily Beast, Ross himself said, “I can give substantive advice to the administration, the president’s campaign, or any campaign that would ask for it. And, of course, when I speak I can talk about my views on policy and I have been supportive of the president’s policy on leading foreign-policy issues.”

Ross, a key Middle East policymaker at the State Department and White House, was a powerful asset for the campaign, speaking at synagogues in swing states and persuading Jewish voters to place their trust in Obama.

This year, however, Ross decided to step aside, as Jewish voters scrutinize Obama’s less- than-friendly record on Israel.

While Ross claims that his reasons to abstain from campaigning for the Obama campaign stem entirely from personal and professional reasons, many have speculated that Ross was, himself, frustrated that the policies he pursued under Obama have not reaped the desired results.

“Dennis is about doing things,” said Aaron Miller, who was Ross’s deputy on the peace process during the Clinton years and is now a scholar at the Wilson Center, a public-policy think tank in Washington, D.C. “The peace process is stuck and is likely to remain stuck. The fact is no amount of hand-holding is going to assuage the concerns and suspicions of a pro-Israel community which has now seen some of its fears realized. It may well be that this is the other piece of this.”

“I wouldn’t want to try to sell Obama to the Jewish community in this environment,” Miller added.