Sent to you by Sean McBride via Google Reader: “Ross vs. Kurtzer” via by admin on 12/26/08
Scott McLeod at Time sums up the key battle, as I understand it, over
who (Dennis Ross vs. Dan Kurtzer) will get the Israel-Palestinian (and
possibly -Arab) portfolio in the Obama administration and the case
against Ross in his Dec 23 blog post here. (He fails to mention the
possible candidacy of Brookings’ Martin Indyk.) I would add that, since
he left the Clinton administration, Ross appears to me to have become,
if anything, more one-sided in his identification with Israel and his
view that Palestinians are not ready for self-determination.

In that regard, Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger Senior
Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations,
published a very important article in the Council’s Foreign Affairs
journal this past week, entitled “Change They Can Believe In: To Make
Israel Safe, Give Palestinians Their Due,” in which he argues, among
other things, that there is a certain “moral equivalence” (my words,
not his) between the Israelis and Palestinians — an assertion that no
doubt provokes all kinds of contempt and righteous indignation among
neo-conservatives whose zeal for “moral clarity” rests on the morally
unquestionably “exceptional” nature of both the United States and

Also worth a look for prospects of promoting the Israeli-Palestinian
track is the op-ed that appeared in Friday’s Washington Post by the
former head of Saudi intelligence and ambassador to the U.S. from 2005
to 2007, Prince Turki al-Faisal. It re-iterates Saudi Arabia’s
commitment to its 2002 peace plan with Israel, now known as the Arab
League peace initiative. While key details go unaddressed in the piece,
its suggestion that Washington should back Israeli-Syrian peace talks
suggests that Riyadh is open to a reconciliation with Damascus and sees
that track as critical both to bringing Hamas into a peace accord and
in ushering in a new security regime in the region as a whole.

Whether these various straws might add up to a major Obama diplomatic
initiative after Jan 20 remains to be seen, of course. If Ross gets the
post, I wouldn’t think so. And suggestions in a New York Times report
earlier this week that Clinton hopes to assert control over the work of
special envoys to the region is particularly worrisome given her
senatorial history of pandering to AIPAC and the uncertainty that such
a situation would create among their foreign interlocutors regarding
the envoys’ access to the White House and Obama himself. But all of
this remains speculation given the amazingly few details that have been
leaked to the press about the internal deliberations of the
president-elect’s foreign-policy team.

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