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April 5, 2011

Dennis Ross on the State of U.S.-Israel Relations April 4, 2011

Listed in: Israel, Fact Sheets

Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, addressed the Anti-Defamation League’s national conference in Washington, DC and conveyed to the audience that the Obama Administration is standing squarely with Israel amid the changes taking place in the Middle East.

Ross’ prepared remarks can be read here and his speech can be viewed below.

Other highlights can be viewed here.

This fact sheet can be downloaded as a pdf here.

On the strong state of relations between the United States and Israel, Ross said:

“Now in this time of uncertainty and change, if there is one thing that isn’t uncertain it’s the relationship between the United States and Israel. And think about it—at a time of such upheaval and change, knowing we have a friend that we can count on is something that is critical to the United States. With Israel we have a relationship that is enduring because it is bound together by a set of shared values and a set of shared interests.”

“The one thing that I can say without any qualification is that for the Obama administration commitment to Israel’s security is something that it is unshakeable and it is iron clad. The fact is those are not just words. We are not just approaching that from a standpoint of it being a slogan. We are approaching it from a standpoint of giving it on a daily basis life and meaning.”

On just some of the joint measures being taken to secure Israel, Ross said:

“Many of you may have heard when Secretary Gates was in Israel a little over a week ago, he said something I want to quote. ... He said ...: ‘I cannot recall a time during my public life when our two countries have had a closer defense relationship.  The United States and Israel are cooperating closely in areas such as missile defense technology, the Joint Strike Fighter, and in training exercises such as Juniper Stallion—cooperation and support that ensures that Israel will continue to maintain its qualitative military edge.’

Our cooperation is contributing to Israel’s security as I said on a daily basis signified most recently by Israel’s deployment of the iron dome short-range rocket defense system, which we helped to fund by providing an additional $200 million this year.”

On the new levels of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation undertaken by the Obama Administration, Ross said:

“I was one of those people who was one of the originals drafters of something that was known as strategic cooperation with Israel, and I can tell you that was cooperation that was designed again to reflect shared values and shared interests.

The institutions that grew out of that over time became sort of real but the exchanges they produced were highly stylized.

What has changed in this administration has been an in depth ongoing, frequent, continuous set of discussions across the whole range of national security issues and concerns, and I can in a sense reflect also what Secretary Gates was saying: In all the time that I’ve served, in all the different administrations I’ve been in, I have never seen the kind of strategic cooperation that exists today between the United States and Israel, and that’s a fact.”

On preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, Ross said:

“The Iranians are fooling no one. And, they are also fooling no one as they continue to pursue their nuclear program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.  As National Security Advisor Tom Donilon stressed last week, ‘Even with all the events unfolding in the Middle East, we remain focused on the strategic imperative of ensuring that Iran does acquire not nuclear weapons.’ On our own and with others, we will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime.” 

“Iran continues to contend with sanctions that are far more comprehensive than ever before, and as a result, it finds it hard to do business with any reputable bank internationally; to conduct transactions in Euros or dollars; to acquire insurance for its shipping; to gain new capital investment or technology infusions in its antiquated oil and natural gas infrastructure - and it has found in that critical sector, alone, close to $60 billion in projects have been put on hold or discontinued. Other sectors are clearly being affected as well as leading multinational corporations understand the risk of doing business with Iran and are no longer doing so.”

“Unless and until Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will continue to ratchet up the pressure.”   

On the prospects for peace in the changing Middle East, Ross said:

“Peace is essential in the region not only to enhance the prospect of trade and cooperation, but to ensure that as a new generation of leaders emerge, they recognize the prospect that Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs can coexist in their own states without the ever-present prospect of renewed hostilities.”

On the requirements for peace, Ross said:

“Israelis and Palestinians need to feel that their respective requirements for peace are understood clearly by each other and will actually be addressed. Israelis, particularly during a time of change with inherent uncertainty, must see that their security will be addressed meaningfully, and in a way that does not leave them vulnerable to the uncertainties of the future. Palestinians must know that they will have an independent state that is contiguous and viable. For Palestinians, that prospect is certainly made more credible when tangible steps are taken to show that the occupation is receding.”

On the Palestinian Authority’s plan to unilaterally declare a state at the United Nations, Ross said:

“We have consistently made it clear that the way to produce a Palestinian state is through negotiations, not through unilateral declarations, not through going to the UN. ... Our position on that has been consistent in opposition.”

And The Jerusalem Post reported:

“As expectations increase that the Palestinians will seek a UN resolution on the issue this September, Ross disparaged the idea as unhelpful not only to the overall diplomatic environment, but to advancing the Palestinians’ own goals. ‘This doesn’t make it more likely that there’ll be a Palestinian state,’ he said.”