Jul 29, 2012 11:54 PM GMT
Dennis Ross, who had worked with the Obama team since 2008, had the ear of the pro-Israel lobby. Now he’s bowing out of politics, Eli Lake reports, just when Obama needs him most.
As Republican donors are financing multimillion-dollar campaigns to bring Jewish voters over to Mitt Romney, one of President Obama’s most important liaisons to the pro-Israel community has opted to sit out the 2012 election cycle.
Dennis Ross, a longtime diplomat and a key architect of the Oslo peace process under President Clinton—a man who worked for the Obama campaign during the 2008 Democratic primaries despite his previous loyalty to the Clintons—won’t be campaigning for Obama this time, Ross confirmed to The Daily Beast.
“I am the Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” Ross said in an email on Friday. “The Washington Institute is a non-profit organization and I cannot do political work from here. When I acted for the campaign in 2008, I had to take a leave of absence to do so. Having only recently returned to the Institute, I cannot now again take a leave of absence.”
After his success stumping for Obama in the 2008 campaign, Ross went on to become a key Middle East policymaker, first at the State Department and later at the White House.
“Ambassador Ross was obviously the No. 1 pro-Israel surrogate for the Obama campaign in 2008,” said Josh Block, a former press aide for the Clinton administration and former top spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “The fact that after three years of working on Mideast policy side-by-side with the president, Ambassador Ross has decided to sit out this campaign, unlike other former top officials now at nonpartisan think tanks, will certainly be understood as a message of its own, intentionally or unintentionally.”
Ross himself said, “I can give substantive advice to the administration, the president’s campaign, or any campaign that would ask for it. And, of course, when I speak I can talk about my views on policy and I have been supportive of the president’s policy on leading foreign-policy issues.”
That’s a departure from Ross’s hands-on work with the Obama administration over the past four years.