Former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross has a plan to rescue Hamas from destruction, and he unveiled it on MSNBC just as announcements were being made that Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire.
Appearing on “Watch the Beat with Ari Melber,” on November 21, Ross said that “the way to end the war in Gaza” would be for Israel to allow the Hamas leadership to leave the territory in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. Ross said he hopes the Biden Administration will promote such a proposal.
Ross cited a precedent: Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow Yasser Arafat and the rest of the PLO leadership to leave besieged Beirut.
Ross forgot to mention what happened after Arafat left Lebanon. He didn’t ride off into the sunset of some quiet retirement. He sailed to nearby Tunis, set up PLO terrorist headquarters there, and embarked on twenty more years of terrorism. Shootings and stabbings. Bus bombings and intifadas. Thousands of Israelis murdered or maimed.
And now Ross wants Israel to repeat that tragic mistake. Once again, he wants to see terrorist leaders rescued, which would leave them free to orchestrate more October 7-style massacres.
But then again, Ambassador Ross has never been very good about learning the lessons—including the lessons from his own actions.
This is, after all, the same Dennis Ross who has publicly admitted—on the op-ed page of the Washington Post—that he pressured Israel to let Hamas import concrete. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses. Israel was afraid it would be used to build terror tunnels. But under Ross’s pressure, the Israelis gave in, despite the danger.
Years later, when the damage was already done, Ross admitted that the Israelis were right to be worried.
Today, it is Israeli families that are paying the price for Ross’s mistake. Hundreds of innocent Israelis, and other foreign nationals including American citizens, are being held hostage in those terrorist tunnels, which were built with the concrete that Ross helped bring into Gaza.
Former American diplomats often lead a charmed life. Ross and the other ex-Middle East envoys—Daniel Kurtzer, Martin Indyk, Aaron Miller, Richard Haas, David Makovsky—have comfortable paid positions in various think tanks and universities. Perched in those ivory towers, they dish out unsolicited advice on how Israel should conduct itself.
They are quoted regularly in the New York Times, and appear frequently on television shows where hosts such as Ari Melber ask them softball questions. They are treated as if the fact that they were involved in past Middle East diplomacy somehow makes them experts on how to bring peace to that part of the world today.
Nobody seems to notice that all their diplomatic efforts, ranging over three decades, were complete failures. Not only did they not achieve anything remotely resembling peace—they actually made things worse. Much worse.
They pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions that were never reciprocated. They intimidated Israel into setting free hundreds of terrorists in worthless “gestures.” They emboldened Palestinian Arab extremism by covering up the Palestinian Authority’s constant violations of the Oslo Accords. And they helped turn world public opinion against Israel, by constantly blaming Israel as the main obstacle to peace.
And after all that, now they have the gall to show up on op-ed pages and talk shows, posing as neutral experts, trotting out new proposals that are supposed to magically succeed where every previous proposal of theirs has failed.
Ex-diplomats never have to deal with the consequences of their bad advice. After their diplomatic efforts flop, they return to comfortable jobs and the warmth of friendly television shows. They continue to enjoy the feeling of importance that derives from being quoted in the news and they are deluged with prestigious speaking invitations. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Israeli women and children have to face the snipers and stabbers and bombers whom those diplomats helped set free.
Isn’t it time to learn some lessons from recent history? Isn’t it time to learn from the mistakes of Dennis Ross and his colleagues? Rescuing terrorist leaders always leads to more terror. That’s what happened with Arafat in 1982, and that’s what will happen if Israel listens to Ross today.
Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.