Ron Radosh

The AIPAC Policy Conference: A Report from a Press Reception

Tomorrow morning President Barack Obama addresses the AIPAC policy conference, which I will be reporting on for Pajamas Media. Having just returned from a press reception held near the D.C. Convention Center, I had the chance to talk with members of the working press, as well as some Israelis. What I heard — and I note that these are completely unconfirmed rumors that might not be completely accurate — coincides with Roger L. Simon’s speculations on his blog.  Roger noted that Saturday’s New York Times story about Dennis Ross and George Mitchell portrays Ross as essentially being too pro-Israel and Mitchell being virulently anti-Israel. The reporters emphasized that “Mr. Ross made clear that he was opposed to having Mr. Obama push Israel by putting forth a comprehensive American plan for a peace deal with the Palestinians, according to officials involved in the debate.” Mitchell, the story said, “argued in favor of a comprehensive American proposal that would include borders, security and the fate of Jerusalem and refugees. But Mr. Ross balked, administration officials said, arguing that it was unwise for the United States to look as if it were publicly breaking with Israel.”

The story continues to say this:

Mr. Netanyahu and Israel’s backers in the United States view Mr. Ross as a key to holding at bay what they see as pro-Palestinian sympathies expressed by Mr. Mitchell; Mr. Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; and even the president himself.

“Starting with Mitchell and Jones, there was a preponderance of advisers who were more in tune with the Palestinian narrative than the Israeli narrative,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a friend of Mr. Ross. “Dennis balanced that.”

The story goes on to note that Ross had proposed a generous package to Israel that the president balked at. Mitchell, “who, one Arab official said, often held up the specter of Mr. Ross to the Palestinians as an example of whom they would end up with if he left, sent Mr. Obama a letter of resignation.”

The Times story, Roger notes, squashed Ross totally, making him out to be an impediment, and revealing inadvertently that Ross was better than many expected him to be. Just tonight my wife and I talked with one noted observer who commented that he thought Ross had no integrity; that he ought to resign after Obama gave his recent speech. Neither that person nor I had read the story until I returned to my hotel and saw Roger’s blog.

But another journalist told us that she had spoken with an Israeli source with solid contacts in the Israeli government. That source told her, she said, that George Mitchell was asked to resign because he had wanted the United States to essentially go all the way and advocate an open pro-Palestinian policy, including instituting sanctions against the Israeli government unless it gave way and agreed to demands of the Abbas government in the West Bank. The source told her that Obama would not go along with that, and as a result, Mitchell felt his role was over and his resignation was asked for.

What really happened between Ross, Mitchell, and Obama will certainly come out eventually. Perhaps Dennis Ross, now compromised by the NYT story and obviously frustrated at Obama’s direction in policy, might himself soon feel compelled to resign, or perhaps also be forced out by the request of the president.

At any rate, it promises to be a highly charged AIPAC policy conference. My report on the president’s speech and reaction to it will be filed tomorrow morning.