On Monday, June 23, 2008, former US Ambassador Dennis Ross spoke by video recording to a gathering of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commissioners attending the 218th General Assembly meeting in San Jose, CA. His speech was directed specifically to these Presbyterian commissioners because there were overtures that called for the 218th GA to approve Israel-targeted divestment action and the suspension of U. S. military aid to Israel. The situation in the Middle East at that time is not much different from the current situation. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace feel that his comments and insights on Middle East peacemaking issues are as valid today as they were in 2008.
In the video below, Ambassador Ross describes the overtures calling for divestment from companies doing business with Israel to have a basis that is “divorced from reality“. He also notes that many critics of the Israeli government fail to “take into account the price the Israelis have paid or the concessions they made or the many times the Israelis in negotiations have been prepared to go very far and not found responsiveness on the other side.” He also notes that the Israeli government bears special responsibilities for the well being of Palestinians living in the disputed territories.
Ambassador Ross had served in diplomatic roles during both the George H.W. Bush and the Bill Clinton administrations. During the period 1999-2000, Ambassador Ross led the US negotiating team as a lead negotiator trying to facilitate a solution that would end to the hostilities between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Mr. Ross currently serves as an advisor to President Barack Obama serving on the “National Security Council staff as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the “Central Region” with overall responsibility for the region. That region includes the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia.
If you are a commissioner to the 219th General Assembly, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace respectfully ask that you watch the video as you consider the complexities of finding peace in the Middle East and discern what kind of meaningful and responsible role the PCUSA can play as a peacemaker.