More time is needed to bridge gaps between Israelis and Palestinians before direct peace talks can resume, Dennis Ross said.
In a speech Monday to the J Street conference in Washington, the senior White House adviser on Middle East peace issues said the current process of the United States working with both sides on bridging proposals needs more time.
“That process hasn’t played out yet,” Ross said. “We’ll make a judgment on where the process is, where the two sides are and what we think the most appropriate steps are on where we’ll have the most impact.
Though he called the status quo “unsustainable,” Ross also rejected unilateral moves, including the current Palestinian effort to gain international recognition for statehood.
“Unilateral moves aren’t going to produce agreements unless unilateral moves are basically negotiated behind the scenes,” he said. “For peace to succeed, the parties have to own it and defend it. They’re not going to defend it unless they own it.”
Referring to the unrest in the Arab world, Ross said the Obama administration had been talking to Arab leaders about the need for reform from its earliest days in office.
“That is not a conversation that began on Jan. 25,” he said, referring to the date of the first major demonstration in Egypt. “We stressed repeatedly that Egyptians needed to open their political system.
“We support principles, processes and institution building, and not personalities. We have been looking at these issues of reform and how to carry them out in the region for some period of time.”
Ross praised the Egyptian military for its handling of the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak and said now is not the time to cut aid to Egypt, but to use aid to help Egypt in its time of political transition.
Some 2,000 people came to this week’s J Street conference, which will culminate in a lobbying day Tuesday on Capitol Hill.