Dennis Ross and “The Departed”

Today the Washington Post published a slideshow depicting 21 top officials that have left the Obama administration, beginning with Dennis Ross and ending with General Stanley McChrystal. The biographical information presented about them is wanting, to say the least, but thankfully Jim Lobe’s article in IPS fills in all the holes about Ross. As Jim notes, Ross’s departure (which will land him back at WINEP) could be “ammunition” for Obama’s GOP opponents who can use it to further the unfounded allegation that Obama displayed “hostility” toward Israel. The timing and wording of the Post’s piece also plays its own part in that game.

From Jim’s article in IPS News:

Dennis Ross, President Barack Obama’s top Middle East aide who has attracted criticism for his allegedly strong pro-Israel sympathies, will leave his post at the end of this month, the White House announced here Thursday.

He will rejoin the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an Israel-centred think tank that was spun off in 1985 from the powerful lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ross served as WINEP’s counselor and a fellow during the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2009.

“An institution that believes sound policy lies at the intersection of scholarship with statesmanship is especially proud that Dennis is returning to his intellectual home,” said WINEP’s executive director Dr. Robert Satloff.

Despite the generally hawkish views of WINEP’s fellows and their frequent criticism of Obama’s approach to the Middle East, Ross said in a statement that his departure from the White House was due to family reasons. It offered no hint of major policy differences between him and Obama or his colleagues on the National Security Council.

“Obviously, there is still work to do but I promised my wife I would return to government for only two years and we both agreed it is time to act on my promise,” added Ross.

“I am grateful to President Obama for having given me the opportunity once again to work on a wide array of Middle Eastern issues and challenges and to support his efforts to promote peace in the region,” he said.

But coming as it does as Republicans in the 2012 presidential primary race and in Congress have been hammering away at what they have characterised as Obama’s “hostility” toward Israel and its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ross’s departure could give them more ammunition.

Because of Ross’s unusually close ties to leaders in the Jewish community and the Israel lobby, his presence in the White House has acted as a shield against those attacks.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.