Interview with Dennis Ross on Iran, peace process and Egypt

Former White House special assistant Dennis Ross told BICOM in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that he believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent a signal of intent to the Palestinians with regard to the peace process. Ross was referring to a speech given by Netanyahu at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv last month, at which Netanyahu said, “A peace agreement with the Palestinians is necessary first and foremost to prevent a bi-national state.” Ross, who recently stepped down from his White House role, and who has advised US presidents on Middle East affairs for more than 20 years, told BICOM, “This suggests that he is not just mouthing the words of wanting to pursue peace, he sees that there is a reason that Israel needs to pursue it for its own interest.” However, Ross stressed that the ability to capitalise on this depended not only on Israel but the Palestinians. He said, “There is no doubt that the Prime Minister of Israel is sending a signal. Where is Abu Mazen at this point, I think that remains to be seen.”

In a wide-ranging interview Ross also addressed regional issues, including international efforts to curb the Iranian nuclear programme. He emphasised the importance of building pressure on Iran, including through the threat of military action. Ross said, “They have to understand that this is their last chance to have it [diplomacy] succeed. And if they don’t approach it with a greater sense of urgency that they may well see that the result is going to be the use of force against them.”

On the subject of Egypt, Ross said that the US, Europeans and other should condition their support for the new Egyptian government on its behaviour. He stressed the importance of Egypt meeting international obligations, including by maintaining the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and meeting standards of pluralism and minority rights domestically.

“If the Muslim Brotherhood is elected, that’s the choice of the Egyptian people and that can be respected. But we have our choices too. If they are going to violate their international obligations, they are not going to get help,” Ross said.

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