The following letter was sent to the New York Times on January 13 by Charles D. Smith, professor of Middle East History at the University of Arizona:
Mark Landerler’s discussion of differing opinions among US Mideast experts vying for key positions in the Obama administration (“From US Experts on Mideast, There’s No Shortage of Advice” 1/13) aptly summarizes most of their differences but misses a key point.
The heart of the debate, in his terms, is not simply about embracing Israel too closely or becoming too deeply engaged in peace talks as did Bill Clinton. The real heart of the debate is whether any administration is willing to differ openly with Israel, and here Bill Clinton shares as much responsibility for misrepresenting issues as does Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who is prominently mentioned for a key Mideast post.
Ross and Clinton blamed Yasser Arafat for the failure of the Camp David 2000 talks to American audiences when they knew their accusations were false. Ross admitted to a French journalist [Charles Enderlin] that both sides shared blame and that Israel’s expansion of settlements during the Oslo Process seriously harmed peace prospects. But to Americans Ross has consistently blamed Arafat and, by implication, Palestinians generally as being opposed to peace, charges that have had serious ramifications for public opinion; the last indexed reference to Israeli settlements in his book THE MISSING PEACE is for the year 1993, the year the Oslo Process began!
Given such misrepresentations, appointing Ross to any position in the Obama administration will call into question the integrity of the approach undertaken given his record as a friend of Israel and his refusal to say to Americans what he was willing to say in print to Europeans.