Note: From Saturday, February 26th to Monday March 1st, JStreet hosted a conference of over 2,300 people across Washington, DC about Israel-Palestine and the Middle East. JStreet is a "pro-Israel, pro-peace movement" based in Washington, D.C. PolicyMic was able to obtain press access to attend the conference, and PolicyMic Contributing Writer Mark Donig compiled the following live blog as he listened to an address on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East delivered at a Plenary Sessoin by Dennis Ross, a seasoned MIddle East diplomat who currently serves as one of Obama's Middle East advisers. The following post was compiled on the morning of Monday, February 28th.
Obama administration Middle East adviser Dennis Ross has just opened the third day of the JStreet Conference. He says the events in the Middle East that are taking place in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt would have been "unthinkable" several years ago. Now we are entering into a "period of uncertainty," and all of us need to "think about the Middle East in new ways."
Ross: "Now is not the time to cut aid to Egypt. Our stake in Egypt is enormous ... the more successful Egypt can be, the more successful the entire region is going to be during this time of change."
Ross has given symbolic, political, and ideological reasons justifying continued aid to Egypt. He says the military is "committed" to continuing the change that Egypt is currently undergoing.
Ross begins to speak of the importance of Egypt-Israeli peace to Israel and its people. According to him, Israel was worried that the old order in Egypt was better than the any new one. But, as it became clear that the longer the revolution went, the more extremists would benefit in Egypt, Israel began to understand that it would be better to accept the change.
Ross tells the crowd: the Obama administration remains committed to an "unshakable commitment" to Israel's security.
Ross: "There has never been a time where the security relationship between the United States and Israel has been stronger than it is today, and that's a fact."
Ross receives the biggest applause so far for his statement that we must recognize that the biggest danger to Israel's security is "maintenance of the status quo." It’s tough to gauge whether they are cheering because they want Israel to change, or because they want the Arab countries to change.
Ross says that Iranians’ attempts to claim credit for the goings on in the region have no backing in truth. In fact, the events in Egypt have given new fire to "opposition in Iran, which exposes Iran to its own hypocrisy."
Ross: Now, to Iranian nuclear program: "I want to be very clear about one thing. We remain determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and we will not be deflected from that goal."
"While the door will always remain open to diplomacy,” Iran must understand that its “attempts to obfuscate will only result in increased pressure.”
Ross concludes by listing Obama’s regional agenda:
1. Push for stability and reform
2. Maintain security of Israel
3. Maintain pressure on Iran
Notably absent from Ross’ remarks was a discussion of developments in Lebanon and Syria or any acknowledgement of the failure of the Middle East peace process with the U.S. as a mediator.
Ross has begun to speak about what America can do to help Egypt. Ross believes that it is in Egypt’s interest to see the Israeli-Egyptian peace become warmer, not colder.
Ross also makes the argument that the PA in the West Bank has made a real effort at domestic reform, real good governance, and transparency.
Photo Credit: Jake Horowitz