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Ross, Dennis (Central Region Czar)

Title: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region (encompasses the Middle East, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia)
Reports to: National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones
Department that handles similar issues: State Department
  • Born in November 1948 in San Francisco
  • Earned BA and MA degrees at UCLA
  • During his college years, he worked as a volunteer on the presidential campaigns of Democratic Senators Robert Kennedy and George McGovern.
  • Was named as President Ronald Reagan’s director of Near East and South Asian Affairs in 1981
  • Left the Reagan administration to serve as executive director of the Berkeley-Stanford program on Soviet International Behavior from 1984 through 1986
  • Directed the State Department’s Policy Planning office under President George H. W. Bush
  • Served as Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton (1993 to 2001), a position where he tried to help establish peace between Israel and Palestinian territories
  • Has headed the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 2001
  • Has taught at Brandeis University, Georgetown University, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Co-founded the Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville, Maryland with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in 2002
  • Blamed Yasser Arafat for the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations: “Tragically, for Arafat and his people, he could not live without the cause and the claims it embodied. The cause defined him. Ending the conflict with Israel would have meant ending the cause. And he couldn't bring himself to do it.”
  • Says that Mideast peace is contingent upon the Palestinians ceasing their terror attacks against Israel: “There may be no definitive Israeli military answer to Palestinian terrorism, but there will be no political answer to Palestinian aspirations without an end to the violence. It is an illusion to believe there will be a peace process so long as the Palestinian Authority makes no effort to stop acts of terror.”
  • Believes that Mideast peace negotiators should tie Israeli withdrawals to promises of future peace in that location, so that whenever Israeli forces withdraw from an area in Gaza or the West Bank, Palestinians take responsibility for preventing subsequent violence there.
  • Supports Israel’s right to build an anti-terrorism barrier, but says it should be temporary and should impact Palestinians as little as possible
  • Urges Israel to negotiate with Syria: “[N]ow is the time to reach out to Syria…. To date, the pressure within the Israeli defense establishment to talk to Syria has not persuaded Olmert to drop his opposition to such talks -- opposition that stems in no small part from the Bush administration being dead-set against the Israelis taking up Assad on his willingness to sit down with them…. Too often the Bush administration has treated ‘talking’ as if it means conceding. But talks are not synonymous with surrender.”
  • Calls for U.S. negotiations with Iran in an effort to stop Tehran’s nuclear program: “In order to launch such negotiations, [Obama] will need to drop the Bush precondition that Iran must first suspend its uranium enrichment. But since there is a danger that Iran will see this as an admission of defeat in which America will concede everything sooner or later, [Obama] must succeed in increasing economic pressures at the same time. To do so, and thus prime the ground for negotiations, America must convince its European allies to adjust their policies as well as strategically influence less friendly powers like China and Russia to fall in line.”
  • Says that Israel should discontinue its practice of interrupting the flow of basic necessities into Gaza: “Israel needs to adopt a different posture toward Gaza. Trying to manipulate the supply of electricity, fuel, and water as a way of pressuring Hamas has not worked; worse, it has focused the attention on Israel's behavior, not Hamas's rocket fire into Israel. Israel should now publicly declare that it will not punish the Palestinian people in Gaza and therefore will not disrupt supplies of electricity or water. But Israel should also state that it cannot be expected to be responsible for providing electricity and water to those who try to kill Israelis on a daily basis. No one else in the international community would accept such a situation. As such, Israel will give the international community six or even nine months to come up with alternatives to the supply coming from Israel, and at that point Israel will no longer provide Palestinians with their fuel, their food, or their electricity. This would put the onus and responsibility back on Hamas for life in Gaza. It would require the international community to put far more pressure on Hamas to act responsibly and to make it possible for the outside world to meet Palestinian needs in Gaza.”
  • Was initially appointed as a special envoy to the Obama State Department
  • In June 2009, he was moved to the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region.

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