Tags: Barack Obama | Iran | Israel | Dennis Ross | Benjamin Netanyahu | Barack Obama | Israel

Dennis Ross: Netanyahu Made a Strong Case, Deserves Answers From Obama

By    |   Thursday, 05 March 2015 09:49 PM

One of the sharpest critics of Prime Benjamin Netanyahu over the years has been veteran U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross.

Ross, who served as a key adviser to President Barack Obama on Iran issues from 2009 to 2011, also played a leading role in President Bill Clinton's efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement during his two terms as president.

His book, "The Missing Piece," published in 2004, is replete with examples of how Ross, as chief Middle East peace negotiator under Clinton, clashed with Netanyahu in the 1990s while trying to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Netanyahu, who served as prime minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999, was unable to reach interim peace deals with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. In much of his book, Ross portrayed Netanyahu as an obstructionist and a hindrance to serious efforts to negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians.

But in an op-ed published in USA Today after Netanyahu's speech to Congress this week, Ross says that the prime minister "made a strong case to Congress about why he thinks the potential agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is a very bad deal."

While the Obama administration is unlikely to agree with the Israeli leader that it needs to do a better job of negotiating, "it should not dismiss the concerns Netanyahu raises about the emerging deal." Indeed, the administration's contention that "there is no better alternative than the deal it is negotiating begs the question of whether the prospective agreement is acceptable," Ross writes.

And the administration also "needs to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the lifetime of the agreement and afterwards."

According to Ross, the Obama administration must also explain why it believes the "break out time" in which Iran can move rapidly to get a nuclear weapon will not be less than a year.

Either the administration's contention "adds up or it does not, but there should be an explicit answer to Netanyahu's charge that Iran will be able to break out much more quickly," the former Obama adviser believes.

Ross writes that in addition, "there should be an answer on how the verification regime is going to work to ensure that we can detect, even in a larger nuclear program, any Iranian violation of the agreement. The issue of verification is critical not just because Iran's past clandestine nuclear efforts prove it cannot be trusted, but also because the administration has made a one-year break-out time the key measure of success."

But beyond verification, he says Iran needs to be made aware of the consequences for cheating, especially if Washington wants to deter such behavior.

Ross contends that "this clearly goes to the heart of Netanyahu's concerns: If he had high confidence that we would impose harsh consequences in response to Iranian violations, including the use of force if we caught Iran dashing toward a weapon, he would be less fearful of the agreement he believes is going to emerge."

But the Israeli leader "does not see that, and he fears that, as with past arms control agreements, we will seek to discuss violations and not respond to them until it is too late," Ross concludes. "The administration should address this fear and prove it means what it says by spelling out different categories of violations and the consequences for each."

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One of the sharpest critics of Prime Benjamin Netanyahu over the years has been veteran U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross.
Dennis Ross, Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, Israel, Iran
Thursday, 05 March 2015 09:49 PM
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