Describing the various “myths” that have prevented a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. Ambassador David Ross drew parallels between the situation and Iraq and that in Palestine and Israel during a speech on Monday in Copley Formal Lounge.

“These myths are related to historical desires, not historical necessities,” he said. According to Ross, the Israelis and Palestinians refuse to let go of their utopian visions that have consequently prevented mediators from succeeding.

Ross also said that the Israelis have tried to characterize the negotiations with details while the Palestinians continue to be vague and too general.

“In comparing the two, Israelis build from ground up and the Arabs from top down, which is ineffective,” Ross said.

For example, Ross recounted U.N. Security Council resolutions on this matter which outline a “withdrawal from territories.” Yet, as the Arabs suggested, this description does not specify the territories in question.

According to Ross, the generality of the phrase prevents Israelis and Palestinians from obtaining a permanent and applicable resolution.

He described the conflict, saying Israel is trying to establish a sense of security after a history of violence and rejection while the Palestinian state is staying firm as a result continuous betrayal and humiliation.

The lessons learned, however, are applicable to Iraq and Iran as well as to the Middle East, Ross said. Just weeks after the historic elections, Iraq will now construct a constitution that has to balance its Shiite and Sunni voices in order to avoid a similar problem.

Ross also criticized the 2003 Middle East truce that lasted 52 days as a weak reaction to the crisis. Cease-fires do not resolve problems because the opposing sides avoid clear and practical definitions of peace, Ross said.

“Be sure your understanding is clear, make unmistakable mechanisms to do it and be sure they are accountable,” he said. “The road map fails to do this because right now it is just a compilation of slogans.”

Ross, who is currently the Washington Institute’s counselor and a Ziegler distinguished fellow, has worked with three administrations to bring an end to the Middle East conflict.

In addition to his duties at the Washington Institute, Ross also played a significant role in shaping U.S. foreign policy with Soviets, the formation of a unified Germany, arms control negotiations and the 1991 Gulf War coalition.

President Clinton awarded Ross the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service and Secretaries of State James Baker and Madeline Albright presented him with the State Department’s highest honor for his work at the State Department.

Ross also wrote a book, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, which describes the situation from an outside perspective.

Ross’s speech was part of a Culture, Collective Memory and Foreign Policy in a post-9/11 World Conference, which was sponsored by Program for Jewish Civilization and co-sponsored by the BMW Center for German and European Studies.

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