Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

You quote from Obama's AIPAC speech when he declares that Israel should "refrain from building new settlements--as it agreed to with the Bush administration at Annapolis," and then make the claim that Obama meant "no new building over the 1967 line."  There are several problems with such an assumption. 

To begin with, "building new settlements" has never meant building with in already-constructed settlements - again another nuance which you have neglected to address.  Netanyahu - not Olmert, or any Prime Minister before him, for that matter - has ensured that no new settlements have been constructed. 

The debate during the Obama administration has always concerned Israel's right to facilitate "natural growth" in existing settlements rather than construction of new ones.  Obama's reference to previous agreements with President Bush only confirm this.  Bush's 2004 letter of understanding with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised to take "existing realities" into account when discussing a final peace treaty, a clear reference to settlements near the green line which would be incorporated into Israel proper in exchange for other parcels of land.

Lastly, it's disappointing to see that you neglected to address explicitly perhaps the most controversial insinuation in the Rozen article - namely, that Dennis Ross is guilty of dual loyalty, though Dennis McDonough vociferously denied the charge himself.  One would assume that Ross is hardly acting as a double agent when he warns Obama of what is politically feasible and realistic to achieve vis-a-vis Netanyahu's government and Israel's political situation, but is merely advice as to the extent of American power in the region.  I'm sure the President himself values such analysis; otherwise, Ross would be off the team.  To suggest that Ross is an "agent against change" not only misconstrues his role within the administration, it only contributes to the dangerous and frankly silly notion that he is a double agent advocating for another government's interests.