Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ross, Kurtzer, Powell, et al

Not a day goes by without more speculation and disinformation about Obama's Middle East team flooding the media, especially the Jewish media. I am too lazy to add the links to the various reports I have read, courtesy of Google News.

One of the latest reports, though, is intriguing, not because it is necessarily accurate, but because it follows a pattern. I refer to Barak Ravid's piece in today's Haaretz, in which he mentions "reports reaching Jerusalem" that list Dennis Ross as a super-envoy to trouble spots in the region (Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Iran, perhaps Afghanistan), and Colin Powell, Dan Kurtzer, and Martin Indyck, on the short list for envoy to Israel-Palestine. As I have pointed out many times in the past, when the Israel Foreign Ministry wants to float balloons and vent (usually against meddlesome American diplomats), they choose Barak Ravid to report. So it is clear that the Ross super-envoy job is, first and foremost, a statement of Israel's wishful thinking, as well as an attempt to influence.

Still, would it be churlish of me to mention that the Magnes Zionist wrote immediately following the US elections:

It is more likely that Ross will expand his sights to include the entire Middle East, especially Iran. That would be an even bigger pity, since Ross wants to isolate Iran in the region, though he is not entirely opposed to US carrots. Will Ross become a Super Envoy to the Middle East? Hopefully not, since that sort of diplomacy hasn't been successful in recent years. And, of course, Ross's level would almost be that of the Secretary of State. What Secretary of State would be willing to have somebody of Ross's stature around?

Indeed, the problem that Ross has, and Kurtzer doesn't, is that there are not so many positions available to him. If he isn't Secretary of State or National Security Advisor (the latter is more probable than the former), then what can he do? Kurtzer, unlike Ross, hasn't risen beyond the level of Ambassador.

Apparently, Shmuel Rosner liked this last point, since last week he wrote (without attribution, of course):

Differences in seniority and self-image [between Ross and Kurtzer] might lead to the more banal possibility: Ross will not accept a role that Kurtzer will happily take. 

Yet the idea of a super-envoy still doesn't make sense to me. Why Hillary Clinton would want Dennis Ross running the show is beyond me, unless she wants him to take the heat for failure. But I have been wrong about Hillary before, most recently on the Secretary-of-State business, which I was surprised that she would even want – unless she has abandoned hopes for the presidency.

Putting Colin Powell in the region is a good idea, especially since he is not tainted with the failure of Oslo and Camp David, as is Ross. With Indyck, you get more of the same – another American Jewish liberal Zionist. But any one of the above will put very little pressure on Israel. Ditto for Kurtzer, although, as I have mentioned before, he is better than the rest.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Another dumb element in Ravid's story was the notion that Colin Powell, former secretary of state would be willing to report to super envoy Dennis Ross. The idea is simply preposterous & the figment of someone's imagination.

I could see Colin Powell being the super envoy & Ross reporting to him. Though to tell the truth I'd prefer not to have Ross anywhere near any of these jobs.

One idea that might work though which I heard from Jim Lobe is Dennis Ross as ambassador to Israel. That would make the Israelis happy, but would also put him in a position where he wouldn't necessarily be in a policy setting role. Ross prob. wouldn't like this much but bolstering the poor guy's ego shouldn't be Obama's top priority.