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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 08, 2002

Dennis Ross: "No such thing as the status quo"

interview on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the ME posted in Al-Haram
[...]You were very involved in the Middle East peace process from its inception in 1993. Do you feel frustrated that all the efforts you exerted over eight years seem to have collapsed?

I feel profoundly frustrated. It is a disaster. That's the only way you can talk about it, especially if we talk in terms of human losses. To look at where we were two years ago and where we are now, you could only describe it as being a disaster. I think we have to learn lessons from the past; I think we also have to recognise that one thing about the peace process is that there is no such thing as the status quo. It always gets worse or it gets better. But it doesn't stay the same. We are in a situation now where things will only get worse unless something changes. It is like riding a bicycle, if you stop peddling, you fall off. And that's what we are seeing. We have fallen off.

Why not say that there was too much peddling in the beginning [during the Clinton administration], but by the time you had nearly reached the end, you ran out of energy and fell off.

We did not lose the energy, we went all out. Some people said earlier on, 'well, you did too much step by step.' But then some of the same people turned around later and said, 'why did you go for Camp David' [peace talks in July 2000 aimed at reaching a final settlement]. You can't have it both ways. You can't say it was wrong to take things step by step, and that it was wrong to go for the whole thing. We went for the whole thing because we understood what the consequences would be if we did not try to reach an agreement. You also now see the consequences of not having a peace process. We don't have a peace process. We have a war process. That's what is going on now between Israel and the Palestinians: it's a war. The challenge is to get back to a peace process; the objective is to find a solution. But at a time when both sides have lost faith, you are not going to go from this situation to an interim solution. That's a dream, that's an illusion.

So you think we should return to the step-by-step approach?

I think so. Look, I don't think the final outcome is any great mystery. I think that's one of the things that we [during the Clinton administration] showed. It is going to look something like the Clinton ideas [a two state solution], because they respond to the fundamental needs of each side. But you can't produce that today. You can't produce it on either side, because there isn't the readiness on either side right now to accept that if they would take these steps, the other side would, too.

In the case of the Israelis, there is profound disbelief because they feel Palestinians will continue to use violence. And they believe that whatever they concede, if the Palestinians aren't satisfied they will continue to use violence. That has to be changed. One of the things that has to happen with the Palestinians and the Arab world is to make it clear that there is a legitimate way of pursuing this cause and an illegitimate way. Violence and terror is illegitimate. That has to be clear. Palestinian security and police can't look like they are going to make arrests because they are under US or Israeli pressure. They have to look as though they are doing so because Palestinian interests require them to.