Obama's Influential Mideast Envoy to Resign

Obama's Influential Mideast Envoy to Resign

By Mark Landler, New York Times
10.11.2011
via New York Times (click here for original)
 
EXCERPT
 
WASHINGTON — Dennis B. Ross, a seasoned diplomat who has been one of President Obama’s most influential advisers on Iran and the Middle East, announced Thursday that he would leave the White House, at a time when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen and tensions over Iran are flaring up anew.
 
Mr. Ross, who disclosed his departure at a lunch with Jewish leaders, said he promised his wife that he would leave the government after two years. He joined the State Department in February 2009 as a senior adviser on Iran before moving to the National Security Council that June.
 
“Even by Middle Eastern terms, when you say two years and you’re heading into four, that’s a stretch,” Mr. Ross said in an interview.
 
A Middle East adviser to five presidents, Mr. Ross, 62, is known for his painstaking approach to diplomacy and longstanding ties to Israeli leaders, which made him a behind-the-scenes interlocutor with Israel but also stood in stark contrast to the bolder instincts and the more distant approach of his boss.
 
But Mr. Ross’s departure, effective in December, is not a result of disputes over policy, several officials said. He helped formulate Mr. Obama’s most recent proposal to revive peace talks, under which the Israelis and the Palestinians would negotiate the contours of a Palestinian state using the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, adjusted to account for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
 
The administration has tightened military cooperation with Israel, a process in which Mr. Ross has been closely involved. He traveled regularly to Israel, meeting with top security advisers to Mr. Netanyahu, like Yitzhak Molcho, whom he has known for decades.
 
Mr. Ross, who has written several books on diplomacy, said he planned to return to his perch at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and pick up his pen. Despite leaving yet another administration without a Middle East peace agreement, Mr. Ross insisted his hopes were not dead.
 
“Neither one of them can wish each other away,” he said of the Israelis and Palestinians. “They have to live together, there’s no other option, and the only way they can live with each other is a two-state solution.”