That's my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg's description of a brilliant Middle East reporter quoting a senior administration official dismayed by Dennis Ross's sympathy for Netanyahu's coalition problems over East Jerusalem. I don't think even Jeffrey can dismiss Laura Rozen as not knowing what she's writing about. So he argues that an Obama official has "hi-jacked" her blog. Goldblog calls this Obama official's statement an accusation of "dual loyalty," of "treason," of the fruit of a "neo-Lindberghian climate". But isn't the comment conceivably, substantively true?
After all, a united Jerusalem under Israel's exclusive control for ever - Netanyahu's and Palin's and Cheney's position - has been Ross's position in the past:
"It's also a fact that the city should not be divided again. That's also a fact."
A fact. A "should" is an "is." And yet Ross simultaneously says - call it the neo-neo-con shoe-shuffle - that Jerusalem's final status should be left to negotiations. Only one of those positions can truly be his, right?
To say that the city that Israel now controls entirely should not be divided again does not mean, I presume, that Ross thinks all of Jerusalem should one day be given entirely to the Palestinians. He co-founded AIPAC's Washington Institute for Near East Policy, for Pete's sake.
So Ross's view is that Jerusalem should be retained entirely by Israel, as is the obvious position of Netanyahu and much of the pro-Israel lobby. And this, for Ross, is a fact. It is not open even to debate. It is even what one might call a fact on the ground. So Ross's publicly stated position is ineluctably at total odds with his president's, and Obama's demands on stopping new settlements in East Jerusalem must make little sense to him. No wonder he is "far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests." It's because of what he believes.
And he has every right to believe this. And Laura Rozen has every right to report his colleagues' understandable frustration.
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