Despite the fact that he resigned from his post in the Obama administration, longtime American diplomat Dennis Ross just cannot quit. Haaretz has learned that Ross still advises President Barak Obama on a regular basis, and maintains an open channel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last November, Ross announced he was leaving his post as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, which includes the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia. Nonetheless, Ross still maintains a working relationship with Tom Donilon, Obama's National Security Advisor, and with the president himself.
A senior official in the administration told Haaretz that despite his resignation, Ross kept his security clearance, so he could still take part in White House debates and be exposed to classified information. "Dennis still comes in and out of the White House every few days," the official said.
Ross is currently in Israel speaking at the Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute which he chairs, and at the Institute for National Security Studies.
Two Israeli sources claimed that between engagements Ross secretly met with Netanyahu and his close aide, Isaac Molho. A senior official in Jerusalem confirmed that Ross met Netanyahu, but added that it was a "private" meeting, held at Ross' request.
The American official believes that Ross continues to unofficially relay messages between Jerusalem and Washington, messages that bypass the State Department and even the Middle East Department in the White House National Security Council.
Ross's work as a Middle East aide in the Obama administration was burdened by tension with special envoy George Mitchell, to the point that Ross and Mitchell sometimes refused to speak to one another. The tension was caused, at least in part, by Ross' occasional efforts to conduct negotiations with Israeli government officials without notifying Mitchell. For example, in both September and November 2010, Ross was said to have tried to persuade Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction during negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for unspecified private assurances and a major military arms transfer from the United States.
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