Dennis B. Ross

"The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie NOV 7, 2004)

The Missing Peace by Dennis Ross

Author Dennis B. Ross is currently Distinguished Fellow and Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is best known, however, for the leading role he played in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process from 1988 to the breakdown of talks in 2001. Ambassador Ross, a highly skilled diplomat and negotiator, worked tirelessly as our country's point man in both George H. W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's administrations, and dealt directly with all parties involved in the negotiations. Ross assisted the Israelis and Palestinians in reaching the 1995 Interim Agreement. He successfully brokered the Hebron Accord in 1997, and facilitated the Israeli-Jordan peace treaty. Bringing Israel and Syria together was also a priority on his agenda. There was a time when Ross strongly believed that Assad would make a deal with Israel.

The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace is an extraordinary book which chronicles the intricate dance toward peace over a period of 12 years - with all the missteps and crushed toes in between. The period was filled with extraordinary optimism and terrible frustration, from the highlights of the face-to-face negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, which led to the signing of the Oslo Accords, made famous by the handshake on the White House lawn between the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to the last days of negotiations before President Clinton left office.

Prime Minister Rabin was murdered by a Jewish fanatic two years after the Accords were signed. It was hoped that Shimon Peres, Rabin's successor, would win the 1996 elections. Suicide bombings and violence caused Israelis to seriously doubt the Palestinians' intentions to be "Partners in Peace." Peres was defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu, a conservative and a hawk. The situation improved when Ehud Barak won the 1999 Israeli election. Unlike Netanyahu, Barak pledged to do everything in his power to work for peace. In July 2000 President Clinton met with both Barak and Arafat at Camp David to come to a final agreement. Although Barak made surprising offers, detailed in the book, Arafat backed out, not even willing to use Barak's offers as a basis for further negotiations. Ross recalls, the Palestinian leader "said no to everything," and did not present "a single idea or single serious comment in two weeks." Clinton did not give up until he had to turn the White House over to George W. Bush. The author believes that Arafat was never up to "ending the conflict" - for him "violence was always an option." And then the al-Aqsa intifada began.

This political memoir is a work of historical significance. Ross, the ultimate insider, shrewdly analyzes the entire process, and really sets the record straight. Ross writes, "Only by telling this story can we debunk the myths that prevent all sides from seeing reality and adjusting to it. Indeed, only by telling the story can we hope to learn the lessons from the past and make it possible to shape a different future."

I just finished the book, all 872 pages, and I must say I am surprised at how easy it is to read, although it is a bit too long. The narrative moves along at a good pace and is filled with fascinating anecdotes and insightful descriptions of the personalities involved. There are also poignant passages, as when Ross, with prescience, tells a Palestinian negotiator that after the Camp David debacle, G.W. Bush would not touch the issue - that Sharon would become Prime Minister and everything the Palestinians had gained would be lost. So very sad.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews


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About the Author:

Dennis RossAmbassador Dennis Ross was Middle East envoy and the chief peace negotiator in the presidential administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, now distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Ross is a 1970 graduat of UCLA; he wrote his doctorial dissertation on Soviet decisionmaking, nad from 1984 to 1986 served as executive director of the Berkeley-Stanford program on Soviet International Behavior. He has received UCLA's highest medal and has been named UCLA alumni of the year. He has also received honorary doctorates from the Jewish Theological Seminary and Syracuse University.

Ross has published extensively on the former Soviet Union, arms control, and the greater Middle East, contributing numerous chapters to anthologies. In the 1970s and 1980s, his articles appeared in World Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Orbis, International Security, Survival, and Journal of Strategic Studies. Since leaving the government in 2001, he has published in Foreign Policy and National Interest. Ross is also a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times.

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