by Philip Weiss
Dennis Ross personifies the Israel lobby. That gives him his power, that’s why Obama has him in his administration. Putting Ross in a policy job–the Iran portfolio–makes the lobby happy. And Obama has to keep the lobby happy.
It would be a sign of real independence if Obama could lose this guy whom Bush I and Clinton couldn’t lose either. Here Matt Berkman reminds us that Dennis Ross wrote a book with David Makovsky just a year or so back in which he argued vehemently against an idea that is becoming a tenet of the Obama doctrine in the Middle East: linkage, the (plain as the nose on your face) idea that the Israel/Palestine conflict is linked to America’s fortunes in the Middle East.
So Ross is against a key principle of the Obama administration! And he works for him… Go figure! Berkman:
“Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East” devoted a chapter to debunking the “myth” that Israel’s violent occupation of Palestinian land foments challenges for U.S. foreign policy in the region.
“Of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East, one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all other Middle East conflicts would melt away,” Ross and Makovsky wrote. “This is the argument of ‘linkage.’”
Makovsky, a frequent commentator on U.S.-Israel relations who never fails to recapitulate this argument, launched into it earlier this month during testimony for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “There are no strict linkages between the Palestinian and Iranian issues,” he said. “Regardless of progress on peace, Iran will seek a nuclear weapon. Moreover, senior Arab security officials say privately that they do not see progress on peace as decisive in influencing Arab efforts to halt Iran in any way.”
Of course, formulated in this way, the “linkage” thesis is an easily refutable straw man. No reasonable observer of the Middle East believes that “all other Middle East conflicts” will “melt away” if the U.S. succeeds in brokering a peace agreement. Nor has anyone ever contended that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict would “decisively” impact U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran, or that Iran would immediately abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons should the long-suffering Palestinians achieve national self-determination.
But by concocting and then launching an assault on spurious iterations of the “linkage” idea, hawkish Zionists like Ross and Makovsky are attempting to inoculate Israel’s settlement and occupation policies from any criticism that might implicate them in the degeneration of regional security dynamics.