Dennis Ross, who served as US President Barack Obama’s Middle East adviser from 2009 to 2011, has issued an estimation of what topics Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s meeting on Monday will revolve around.
The current wave of Arab terrorism in Israel will garner at least as much attention as the controversial Iran nuclear deal the two have long been at odds over, according to the former adviser’s prediction, as published in Politico on Sunday night.
“Things have grown so difficult inside Israel lately that the Iran nuclear deal, which caused such friction between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, is not likely to be their main preoccupation when they meet at the White House on Monday,” he assessed.
Regarding Iran, Ross claimed that within the 15 year framework of the deal Iran won’t be able to break out with a nuclear arsenal – a claim many have cast doubt on, due to the lack of inspection at Iran’s covert nuclear sites such as Parchin.
Based on his claim, Ross estimated Netanyahu and Obama would discuss ways to take advantage of the 15 year lull to create deterrence against Iran, check its regional hegemonic ambitions, and try and prevent a nuclear arms race.
The two should “create incentives and disincentives for others in the region like Turkey and Saudi Arabia not to seek the same nuclear threshold status that the agreement permits Iran to have,” wrote Ross.
Obama’s former adviser said that in terms of the terror wave that has already claimed the lives of 12 Israelis since October 1, the president would likely try to find Netanyahu guilty for not having made even more concessions as part of a peace process with the Palestinian Authority (PA) – after the latter torpedoed talks in April 2014 by signing a unity deal with Hamas.
“No doubt, even while expressing sympathy for what Israel is now facing, President Obama will find it hard to resist telling Netanyahu in private that he had warned him about the consequences of standing pat and expecting the Palestinians to remain quiescent.”
“Still, this part of the private discussion could be useful if the president comes out of the meeting emphasizing that lies about Israel changing the status quo on the Haram al Sharif (the Temple Mount) must cease – nothing has done more to incite those carrying out the attacks,” he wrote, without noting that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has himself led the incitement regarding the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
Ross noted that Netanyahu and his coalition government recently conceded to having cameras installed on the Mount to help the Jordanian Waqf ban Jewish prayer at the site, despite Israeli law stipulating freedom of worship.
“Assuming this helps to calm the situation and stem attacks more generally, the president could ask the prime minister to take additional steps on the ground that might demonstrate his commitment to a two state outcome, particularly because we are now seeing what it might mean to have one state,” he said, in comments following reports that Obama will demand more “gestures” from Netanyahu.
Despite all the tensions between Obama and Netanyahu, the adviser was optimistic that bilateral ties would remain strong.
“Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. We share values and interests – and enemies. Even if President Obama often seems to find it easier to reach out to adversaries than traditional friends, he is unlikely to break this pattern.”
“At a time when we will need partners we can rely on, Israel will remain a pillar in the Middle East. Even if differences remain on how to deal with the Palestinians, our next president is likely to recognize and act on that reality.”