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Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama

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Winner of the National Jewish Book Award's Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award in History. A necessary and unprecedented account of America's changing relationship with Israel When it comes to Israel, U.S. policy has always emphasized the unbreakable bond between the two countries and our ironclad commitment to Israel's security. Today our ties to Israel are close--so clo Winner of the National Jewish Book Award's Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award in History. A necessary and unprecedented account of America's changing relationship with Israel When it comes to Israel, U.S. policy has always emphasized the unbreakable bond between the two countries and our ironclad commitment to Israel's security. Today our ties to Israel are close--so close that when there are differences, they tend to make the news. But it was not always this way. Dennis Ross has been a direct participant in shaping U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and Israel specifically, for nearly thirty years. He served in senior roles, including as Bill Clinton's envoy for Arab-Israeli peace, and was an active player in the debates over how Israel fit into the region and what should guide our policies. In Doomed to Succeed, he takes us through every administration from Truman to Obama, throwing into dramatic relief each president's attitudes toward Israel and the region, the often tumultuous debates between key advisers, and the events that drove the policies and at times led to a shift in approach. Ross points out how rarely lessons were learned and how distancing the United States from Israel in the Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush, and Obama administrations never yielded any benefits and why that lesson has never been learned. Doomed to Succeed offers compelling advice for how to understand the priorities of Arab leaders and how future administrations might best shape U.S. policy in that light.


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Winner of the National Jewish Book Award's Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award in History. A necessary and unprecedented account of America's changing relationship with Israel When it comes to Israel, U.S. policy has always emphasized the unbreakable bond between the two countries and our ironclad commitment to Israel's security. Today our ties to Israel are close--so clo Winner of the National Jewish Book Award's Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award in History. A necessary and unprecedented account of America's changing relationship with Israel When it comes to Israel, U.S. policy has always emphasized the unbreakable bond between the two countries and our ironclad commitment to Israel's security. Today our ties to Israel are close--so close that when there are differences, they tend to make the news. But it was not always this way. Dennis Ross has been a direct participant in shaping U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and Israel specifically, for nearly thirty years. He served in senior roles, including as Bill Clinton's envoy for Arab-Israeli peace, and was an active player in the debates over how Israel fit into the region and what should guide our policies. In Doomed to Succeed, he takes us through every administration from Truman to Obama, throwing into dramatic relief each president's attitudes toward Israel and the region, the often tumultuous debates between key advisers, and the events that drove the policies and at times led to a shift in approach. Ross points out how rarely lessons were learned and how distancing the United States from Israel in the Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush, and Obama administrations never yielded any benefits and why that lesson has never been learned. Doomed to Succeed offers compelling advice for how to understand the priorities of Arab leaders and how future administrations might best shape U.S. policy in that light.

30 review for Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This is an absolutely fascinating book so packed with information I could hardly put it down. Dennis Ross has served as one of the United States Middle Eastern policy makers through four recent administrations. Ross states this is not a history of Arab-Israeli peace efforts but rather a discussion of the evolution of Israeli-American diplomatic relations. Ross discusses the relationship with each president starting with Truman’s recognition of Israel just eleven minutes after its Declaration of This is an absolutely fascinating book so packed with information I could hardly put it down. Dennis Ross has served as one of the United States Middle Eastern policy makers through four recent administrations. Ross states this is not a history of Arab-Israeli peace efforts but rather a discussion of the evolution of Israeli-American diplomatic relations. Ross discusses the relationship with each president starting with Truman’s recognition of Israel just eleven minutes after its Declaration of Statehood in 1948. Ross enumerates the number of factors leading to a strengthening of the ties during the Cold War. The author also covers the problems for the U.S. regarding the Israel-Arab hostilities mostly “The Palestinian Question.” Ross discusses each of the key people including the America’s own Machiavelli, Henry Kissinger. The author also investigates the relationship of Israel’s prime ministers along with the United States presidents. I found it most interesting to learn how the various Presidents interacted with their Secretary of State’s; some presented the big picture of what they wanted to achieve and left the Secretary of State on their own to implement, others like Obama controlled everything from the White House and the Secretary of State was just an errand boy. I found a comment made by Ross most interesting and it triggered me to do a literature search to verify the comment. The comment is the Palestinians have never initiated a peace offering in all these years. The book is well researched and also provides eyewitness accounts of the history it analyses. The author writes clearly and elucidates the complexities of the United States-Israel relationship and also the larger picture of the Middle East. The book is thoughtful and even handed in covering the material. The book is fairly long at almost 500 pages or 19 audio hours. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Michael Kramer did a good job narrating the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    Some notes on what I'd like to remember from what I read in this book. The author says Israelis and Palestinians compete to score points rather than act responsibly; Netanyahu is not Rabin; provocation is often the name of the game. The US can't change that for Israel. Palestinians capitalize politically on their victimhood status. The Arab awakening, or, anyway, the changes that began in spring 2011 were not driven by issues having to do with Palestinians. Wrong assumptions: That if the US distan Some notes on what I'd like to remember from what I read in this book. The author says Israelis and Palestinians compete to score points rather than act responsibly; Netanyahu is not Rabin; provocation is often the name of the game. The US can't change that for Israel. Palestinians capitalize politically on their victimhood status. The Arab awakening, or, anyway, the changes that began in spring 2011 were not driven by issues having to do with Palestinians. Wrong assumptions: That if the US distances from Israel, relationships with the Arabs and the American position in the region will improve, that it is costly in terms of that position for the US to be close to Israel, and that resolution of the Israeli/Palestine conflict would resolve the problems of the entire region. You don't hear pundits making the last of those assumptions as often as they once did. As to the first two assumptions, each of which seems to me to be one side of the same coin, they are incorrect for the reason that the various countries of the region are taking care of their own interests. The Palestinians become a political consideration for them even while leaders are focused on the needs of their own countries. "The historical record demonstrates that Arab relations with the United States are guided by their priorities, not ours." In fact for the US not to stand by agreements increases the perception that it's not going to do so for the Arab countries either. The author isn't saying Palestinians don't matter. In fact he says a lot and with a lot of nuance. These brief notes are just for my memory after I return this book to the library. He says those negotiators who pressure Israel to take more steps or a first step because, in their estimation, it's got the power, must pay attention to what Palestinians say they're going to do, as well. If the Palestinians are given a pass, and their doing so is ignored, then, given the negotiator's perspective, he/she will again put pressure on Israel to make yet another move--and under the circumstances could expect to encounter resistance. Assigning a negotiator who, due to his perception, expects continual steps with nothing in return, would also result in resistance. Surprises from Israel aren't appreciated. Ross contends that each administration has thought it had a whole new picture or that the world had fundamentally changed, and that the prior administration had had failed miserably to understand or handle foreign policy correctly, and this applies to the Middle East as well as everywhere else. He's quoting a historian (Stephen Sestanovich) here. This sounded like generations; each new generation thinks something like that. The author contends that when one administration is perceived by the last as having drawn too close, the next has allowed more distance. He documents the the evolution of this history; that's the essence of this book: the documentation and quotations. He documents what happened to show the assumptions about the efficacy of those moves were incorrect, and that's the gist of it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samantha wickedshizuku Tolleson

    This book has a simple Textbook format, and takes the reader from Truman's policy progressing year by year to the now. This describes the back and forth frustrations of America's relations to Israel. The later half of the book also includes Ross' involvement as early as the Nixon Administration, and has been extremely enlightening. Though at times this book really angered me. He's pictured on the right, so more of you can understand who this guy is. My questions: 1. I still have not puzzled o This book has a simple Textbook format, and takes the reader from Truman's policy progressing year by year to the now. This describes the back and forth frustrations of America's relations to Israel. The later half of the book also includes Ross' involvement as early as the Nixon Administration, and has been extremely enlightening. Though at times this book really angered me. He's pictured on the right, so more of you can understand who this guy is. My questions: 1. I still have not puzzled out on the 'why' for Israel demanding the particular piece of land that their state sits on. Logistically, why? Wasn't enslavement by the Egyptians and the Holocaust enough punishment? I don't understand why a people would want to inhabit a land surrounded by a race/religion that says the Jews must die? (setting aside that Israel claims that it is their Holy Land. The problem is that the religion of Islam also claims the same thing. There has to be a bigger reason of why that place.) It's like throwing a match in a powder keg. Result is that it won't end well. 2. Instead of providing arms for any of these countries, why haven't we provided aid in agriculture, irrigation, and cattle only? Don't give them guns when they are to sorry to work a plow, because they would rather kill people while screaming their zealotry . If food is the problem teach them how to grow it. 'Teach a man to fish and all that rot.' 3. Another thing I just do not understand. Is; why the Jews? Persecution has happened numerous times to their race over the course of history. I understand that it happened, but not the WHY it happened. Does it really boil down to religion? Or is it only politics? Their genetic make-up? Charles Dickens? My opinions(pertaining to the book, but not limited to only the book): *stepping up on my soapbox.* 1.Put some serious thoughts into Hydro-Electric cars. It would dampen our dependence on Saudi Oil. (I mean come on; Back to the Future's time machine ran off of Garbage. Why the hell do we not have this tech already?! IT'S 2016! Put my Tax dollars into the Science to make it happen! Chop! Chop!) 2. Stop Arming Foreign Countries. Period! (There are many countries in severe debt to the U.S. Time to start writing some bills with interest. I have to pay my own bills! Why not those who bought the arms to begin with?) Also nuclear power or weapons; is just a bad idea. (You don't hand a loaded pistol to a toddler, so why allow a dictatorship that availability?) Solar and wind are a costly option, but everyone will live if accidents happen. The Chernobyl disaster and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster are examples to keep in mind. America also needs to evaluate their dependence on it as well. If the democratic party wants to scream about the environment then I want more project updates to these causes with quarterly progress reports. On what was done and scientific read outs of how the project it has benefited the environment from projects completion. 3. The United States is not a charity organization, and every single disaster relief has yet to be returned in good faith. Time for some type of Quid-pro-Quo and stop throwing away my tax dollars! I didn't see Chinese offering fiscal aid when Hurricane Katrina tore it's way through Louisiana or any monetary loans by what was once the Ottoman Empire, to the relief of Winter Storm Sandy victims. Though every Tsunami or Major Earthquake to hit Asia or the Middle-East; the U.S. is just throwing money at them. Same with every other act of God to hit any other country. It isn't America's responsibility to act as Big Brother or Big Banker! 4. Legalize all Drugs, Regulate them, Distribute & Tax them (Addiction is a medical condition. If the addict makes the decision that they want to quit. They should not have to be scarred of losing their job or family due to state institution policies by going to Rehab. Besides, think of all the revenue it could generate. If an addict doesn't want to quit then we should leave it for the gods to sort out. They are going to use whether drugs are illegal or not. At least make sure that they have clean needles and paraphernalia; so they won't spread disease.) This in turn will empty out our prison systems, and leave plenty of rooms for the people who should be in. Like rapists, frauds, child support dodgers, murderers, pedophile psychos, and corrupt politicians. Another positive outcome would be the change in job disqualification, but at the same time will anger the entire black market. (Someone much smarter than myself can sort out that nightmare. I wouldn't know where to start.) This guy has a pretty convincing argument. https://onechance1life.wordpress.com/... 5. Improve the medical availability in: physical, rehabilitation, and mental ailments. Revisit the regulations on holistic medicine practice. Lot's of ailments can be curbed with specific diets. This has had a lot of progress in the fight against Cancer. (At the same time, put a leash on the pharmaceutical companies, and reevaluate EVERY licensed Dr. that has been writing to many prescriptions. Honestly with all of the Eagle Eye and fusion centers' shit going on you(government) can't pull one over on citizens by turning a blind eye to what's going on.) Also the insurance companies need to be addressed. Premiums are ridiculous! 6. Since I have to pee in a cup to get a job. I think it's only fair that whoever applying for welfare for five kids that only sits, drinks booze, takes pills, and watches the Reality TV channel(just an example) all day every day; should have to do the same. STOP TREATING YOUR KIDS LIKE CHECKS! Then individual states should regulate the Child support laws and rates after proven paternity testing(it's kind of hard denying maternity). Make it one flat fair rate due to the child's age with a re-evaluation appointment every year. (Children grow and so do their needs, but make sure their needs are being met. i.e. food, shelter, clothing, health, and education. RECEIPTS! KEEPING YOUR RECEIPTS IS THE EASIEST WAY TO PROVE YOU'RE DOING YOUR END RIGHT! JUST AN OBSERVATION!) Stop incarcerating people because they are one month late due to being laid off from their job. A year without payment, then yes, incarceration is acceptable. No effort to find a job for a year shows that the person doesn't WANT to take responsibility for their children, and SHOULD BE ADVISED TO sign 100% percent of custody to the parent suing for custody; resulting in ending child support. Making the suing parent get a job. END THE BABY DADDY, DRAMA MAMA $H1T! 7. Eliminate the Math Common Core education system. It's holding back the children who excel. (I end up being the one teaching my children 'how I learned it.' My son, boy wonder that he is, understands both ways. While my daughter doesn't get math until I show her the 'old way' Don't fix something that isn't broken to begin with!) In it's place start requiring: art, etiquette, and survival classes. 8. With many of the natural disasters that are happening due to floods and wildfires, I'm confounded by the lack of coverage and failure that our government has promised to provide. If it was such a bad idea to continue the Keystone project why not use the material and remaining funding to reroute water from known flood areas to areas in drought? Re-purpose the design to use that water for irrigation purposes across many states, and farmers of the areas would drop food and cattle prices if crops yield excess. Plants need water to GROW! This is basics of the basics in Agriculture and Economics. This would also subvert natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Torrential Flooding of Louisiana in 2016. You have a chart for it, so why not make it happen? 9.Last but not least; GET OUT THERE AND VOTE PEOPLE!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    Dennis Ross provides an interesting take on how all the U.S. Presidents dealt with the State of Israel, from Harry Truman and the founding of the Jewish State in 1948, all the way through to Barack Obama. It's fair to say that all U.S. Presidents have been supportive of Israel to a greater or lesser degree. One of the points made by the author is that the Presidents generally sought to strike some sort of balance in the region, between support for Israel and support for the Arab states, some mor Dennis Ross provides an interesting take on how all the U.S. Presidents dealt with the State of Israel, from Harry Truman and the founding of the Jewish State in 1948, all the way through to Barack Obama. It's fair to say that all U.S. Presidents have been supportive of Israel to a greater or lesser degree. One of the points made by the author is that the Presidents generally sought to strike some sort of balance in the region, between support for Israel and support for the Arab states, some more successfully than others. Some, like G.W. Bush, for example, tended to be more supportive of Israel's security issues and distrustful of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, while others, such as Barack Obama, tried harder to strike a more balanced approach between Israel and the Arab world. Ross also makes a point that U.S. Presidents shouldn’t be too concerned that outright support for Israel (whether through arms sales, monetary loans, or preventing condemnation of Israel in the United Nations) might harm U.S. interests in the Arab world. He supports this through examples in which the U.S. aided Israel, but the Arab nations did not react aggressively against the U.S., as several of the presidential advisors had feared. That said, I seem to remember oil embargos and oil price hikes in the past which make me question Ross's feeling in that regard. Ross also seemed to feel that the Palestinian issue (e.g., the need for a homeland for the Palestinians and the question of Palestinian refugees) isn't as significant a source of anti-Israel / anti-American feelings in the Arab world as many seem to think. That's quite a different impression as I have had, and I have to think that Ross, being Jewish and I believe also a co-founder of AIPAC (a powerful Jewish lobby in the U.S.), might not see things quite as impartially as he might want to believe. Another interesting aspect is how each U.S. president has condemned, argued against, criticized, or threatened Israel against building further settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and how each was rebuffed and ignored by the various Israeli leaders. Continued settlement buildings have been identified as an obstacle to peace, and makes a two-state solution next to impossible. Israeli leaders have, at times, indicated a willingness to halt settlement building, and a willingness to work toward a Palestinian state. However, as settlement buildings continue, this seems to be a fading dream. I'm reminded of Netanyahu's quote during his most recent election campaign (even though he later backtracked from the statement), that "... there will never be a Palestinian State" as long as he was in power. Another tidbit I found interesting in the book was, when Ross detailed each President's dealings with the Middle East, in only one case do I remember him speaking about the influence of any Vice President. As many would guess, that was Dick Cheney in George W. Bush's presidency. Many have discussed Cheney as being the most powerful and influential Vice Presidents ever, and while not an intended focus of the book, the prominance of this one Vice President seems to support this view. I enjoyed the descriptions Ross provides of the issues and decisions the last dozen U.S. Presidents had to make regarding Israeli / Middle East events over the past 50 years. My main regret is the lack of a clearer historical link to the most significant events in Israeli / Mid East history during each of the presidential terms, and not adding a little more about how each of those events and wars also impacted U.S. policies. The final feeling I was left with is that the relations between Israel and the U.S. are not always smooth and easy. Both countries have interests and needs, and often they may and do clash. Unfortunately, based on seeing the interactions between the U.S. and Israeli leaders as outlined in this book, the likelihood of smoother relations next year, with a new President and the same Israeli Prime Minister, probably won't be much different than now, no matter which Party wins the U.S. Presidential election.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    I found Ross's book a fascinating, comprehensive account, well organized, impartial look at a very complicated, misunderstood international situation. The best part is Dennis Ross has been an insider participant from the beginning. I found Ross's book a fascinating, comprehensive account, well organized, impartial look at a very complicated, misunderstood international situation. The best part is Dennis Ross has been an insider participant from the beginning.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick Pengelley

    This book, despite my discomfort with some of the views Mr. Ross articulates, is a valuable contribution to the literature of US-Israel relations, and compellingly written. I was fascinated to learn, for instance, that there has always been considerable disagreement within the US administration on dealing with Israeli governments. This is refreshing to know, given what has always seemed to be a steadfast, support Israel no matter what approach by the US. It holds out hope that a future administr This book, despite my discomfort with some of the views Mr. Ross articulates, is a valuable contribution to the literature of US-Israel relations, and compellingly written. I was fascinated to learn, for instance, that there has always been considerable disagreement within the US administration on dealing with Israeli governments. This is refreshing to know, given what has always seemed to be a steadfast, support Israel no matter what approach by the US. It holds out hope that a future administration will change this approach – which has achieved nothing over 50 years, except of course to provide untold billions in US support for Israel. Mr. Ross’s core thesis is that, despite the views of many in successive US administrations (including some presidents) that it is not good for the US to be seen as supportive of Israel because that will lose it friends in the Arab/Muslim world, the governments of those countries have in fact done little to bear out such concerns. There is therefore no harm in the US continuing to support Israel and it should do so (so Mr. Ross holds) regardless of Israel’s failure to stop building settlements in the West Bank, continuing to impose an occupation on the Palestinians and taking few, if any, steps towards a permanent peace with the Palestinians and allowing them to form a State. It is apparent from Mr. Ross’s book – especially the chapters in which he recounts his own involvement in US administrations – that if changing this situation means putting pressure on Israel, then he would be opposed. At one point he refers to criticism of his role that appeared in an article by Laura Rozen in Politico: “[Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests.” While Mr. Ross denies this, the statement is in fact reflective of the book where he recounts his own role. All Israeli governments appear to have a tenuous hold on power and are beholden to extreme elements that make it difficult, if not impossible, for those governments to implement changes that the world is increasingly demanding. The US enables Israel’s behavior and unless it withdraws that support, there is little chance of change. While Mr. Ross is apparently in favour of an end to the occupation and the formation of a Palestinian state, he opposes putting pressure on Israeli governments to make it happen – certainly not if that involves action on the world stage that might be seen as joining with the Europeans and others who in his words want to “delegitimize” Israel – the label he seemingly applies to anyone who criticizes Israeli actions and which would include the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (“BDS”) which does not seek to “delegitimize” Israel any more than similar movements sought to “delegitimize” South Africa during the 1980s. The early chapters of the book, dealing with administrations from Eisenhower through Reagan are a fascinating recounting of the evolution of the US-Israel relationship – fascinating to learn that it was not always as it is now, and might have been very different if Truman for instance had followed his initial inclinations. It is when Mr. Ross becomes personally involved and we learn of his efforts at influencing administrations (not always successful), that the book takes an uncomfortable turn. Mr. Ross is apparently an intimate of many in the upper echelons of Israeli power. He describes hanging out in “Bibi’s” office while the Israeli PM is on the phone with Obama. He tries to calm him down after the call by explaining what the president really meant to say (it would be interested to get Obama’s view on that). He expresses anger at Obama’s pointing out that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law (which they are) because this will upset the Israelis. When mentioning the attack on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos he states, misleadingly, that people on the ship were armed. Some were, with chair legs and anything they could find to hand on board – but not the sort of arms carried by elite members of the world’s fourth largest military. And they were, after all, only protecting themselves against boarding on the high seas by a bunch of murderous pirates. And he lauds Israel’s attempts to reduce civilian casualties during the latest onslaught on Gaza (where over 2300 people including over 350 children were killed), noting that the US military is learning valuable lessons from the Israeli military. What is missing from the book is any explanation for why the US continues to support Israel so strongly. Israel might have been a strategic asset during the Cold War, but not now. Even if Mr. Ross is correct that US support for Israel has little or no negative impact on the attitude of Arab states (and surely he refers to their (mostly) totalitarian governments, not the men and women in the street), there is no explanation for the massive support the US continues to provide Israel. The explanation is two-fold. One reason is the massive profits made by the US arms industry in selling weaponry and support systems to Israel. The other is the power of the domestic Israel lobby led by AIPAC. While there are allusions to the power of the lobby, and mention that loss of the New York Jewish vote was a significant factor in George H.W. Bush’s election loss (following a mistaken anti-Israel vote in the UNSC by the US), a reader unfamiliar with US politics would not realize just how significant a role this lobby plays – akin to that played by the NRA in blocking any attempts to pass laws implementing much needed gun control. The interested reader is referred to “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy”, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2008).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Howard Cincotta

    Dennis Ross, the insider’s insider when it comes to Arab-Israeli negotiations, has written an amalgam of history, analysis, and memoir in the wonderfully titled Doomed to Succeed, which rigorously traces the roller-coaster ride of the U.S.-Israel relationship from Truman to Obama. Ross, who has held key negotiating roles in every administration from Reagan on, weaves three separate themes: a very specific strategic argument about peace negotiations; a detailed narrative of official U.S.-Israeli Dennis Ross, the insider’s insider when it comes to Arab-Israeli negotiations, has written an amalgam of history, analysis, and memoir in the wonderfully titled Doomed to Succeed, which rigorously traces the roller-coaster ride of the U.S.-Israel relationship from Truman to Obama. Ross, who has held key negotiating roles in every administration from Reagan on, weaves three separate themes: a very specific strategic argument about peace negotiations; a detailed narrative of official U.S.-Israeli relations from 1947 to the present; and a close-up account of what actually goes on in the negotiating rooms when leaders from the U.S. and the Middle East gather. (It’s not always pretty, but don’t look for intimate gossip or dishing; Ross is too sober a commentator to indulge in such matters. He does note that just about every American president has exploded in frustration at one time or another during negotiations.) In an arena where polemics is a blood sport, Ross is refreshingly fair, uninterested in scoring easy debating points or indulging in false outrage. This is diplomatic prose at its best, even if it sometimes lacks bite. Ross’s central argument: the tactic of “distancing” the U.S. from Israel to gain leverage with the Arabs is invariably counter-productive and misperceives the Middle East reality, which is that countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan will always place their safety and security needs ahead of their support for the Palestinians. The historical evidence he cites makes this point almost unassailable. American officials constantly worried that support for Israel would cost the country politically or economically. It rarely did, for the simple reason that Arab nations calibrated their relations with the U.S. first, before responding to Palestinian interests. (The 1973 oil embargo might be one exception.) If there is a weakness in Ross’s argument, it is what he leaves out. Just as distancing from Israel didn’t strengthen our position in the Arab world, then standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel – “with no daylight” – doesn’t necessarily motivate Israel to support U.S. peace initiatives. After all, Jimmy Carter had a notoriously difficult relationship with Menachem Begin and often expressed strongly negative views about Israeli policy. Yet Camp David stands as an enduring diplomatic monument on an otherwise bleak political landscape. The reason: Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, who may have been a fallible politician, was still someone willing to take genuine risks for peace. Without such a partner, U.S. policy, no matter how inventive or patient, cannot succeed. Later, President Clinton found such partners in Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, but Yasser Arafat proved unwilling to reach an agreement. As Ross observes, Arafat couldn’t end the conflict because it defined him. Ross reminds us that today’s close strategic alliance with Israel was hardly the norm. Truman, for example, recognized the new state of Israel over the vehement objections of his senior advisors, including Secretary of State George Marshall. Eisenhower maintained a chilly relationship with Israel, one that turned confrontational over the Sinai invasion in 1956. (Although Eisenhower forced Britain, France, and Israel out of the Suez Canal and Sinai, his actions hardly helped us with Egypt’s Nasser, who had his own anti-Western nationalist agenda.) The U.S. first sold weapons directly to Israel under the Kennedy Administration, but the close strategic partnership we see today really dates from the Reagan years. (Again, the security elements of the partnership succeeded, but Reagan could no more achieve a peace agreement than Bush 41, following the Gulf War, when U.S. power and prestige were at their height. Ross concludes with an typically judicious assessment of the Obama years. Obama has been a true friend of Israel, he argues, and the security relationship has deepened significantly during his presidency. At the same time, Obama fell into the trap of “distancing” from Israel – on issues such as settlements that have bedeviled so many other presidents – without gaining commensurate leverage from the Palestinian side. He cites Obama’s observation that Benjamin Netanyahu was too strong and Mahmoud Abbas too weak to make peace. Ross, operating within a largely diplomatic cocoon, doesn’t really tackle the massive political shifts that have occurred in recent decades, notably the failure of the Arab Spring, the agony of Syria – and perhaps most significantly – a conservative Netanyahu government more focused on expanding settlements and security walls than finding a genuine two-state solution. Even if the Palestinian conflict ended, Ross concludes, “The lesson here is that with key Arab friends of the United States, there will be a floor below which they will not allow the relationship to go, and a ceiling above which it cannot rise.” As for the beleaguered “peace process?” Perhaps we’ll have to wait for another generation to produce a new Sadat or Rabin – leaders willing to make the great leap to a lasting peace. I hope Dennis Ross will be in the room when that happens.

  8. 4 out of 5

    E

    This is an exhaustive account of the United States' relationship with Israel since that nation's founding in 1948. It is, thankfully, a surprisingly positive history. I say "surprisingly" because each president seems to enter the Oval Office focused on a "reset" with Israel, which usually includes less public support of the Israelis and more outreach toward Arab nations. However, as each president tackles the situation, he realizes the need Israel has for our support and the utter duplicity of t This is an exhaustive account of the United States' relationship with Israel since that nation's founding in 1948. It is, thankfully, a surprisingly positive history. I say "surprisingly" because each president seems to enter the Oval Office focused on a "reset" with Israel, which usually includes less public support of the Israelis and more outreach toward Arab nations. However, as each president tackles the situation, he realizes the need Israel has for our support and the utter duplicity of the surrounding countries (Ross even claims that Obama is quite supportive of Israel in private). This realization leads to closer ties, more financial and military support, etc. Thus a relationship that seems "doomed" in fact has become quite successful. The question arises, of course, of whether this will continue. Will it? I'd be more optimistic if Hillary Clinton got elected than I would Donald Trump, to be honest. Heck, her "hawkish" foreign policy is more appealing all the way around. Although Trump will nuke ISIS (yeah right), so maybe he'll spare some ordnance for the West Bank as well (bad idea, by the way, Donald J., if you happen to be reading this). There are a lot of other points I could bring out from this book, such as that most Arab countries don't mind a strong and secure Israel (it's better than the alternative); Palestinian "refugees" as actually Jordanians that Jordan refuses to patriate (considering they've lived there 70 years); Arafat was as awful as he seemed at the time; etc. The most interesting question has to do with Iran and their true intents and progress toward that intentions, but that was a topic by and large not raised in this book. I am tempted to believe that their threats toward Israel are mere bluster, but I'm not sure that's a temptation the Israelis can afford to indulge.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Parker

    I read "Doomed to Succeed" at the perfect time. Since Obama decided not to veto the recent UN resolution, many people have been wondering about the future of the Israeli-American relationship. Ross's book is informative and instructive, chronicling different presidents approaches to Israel and why they succeed or failed in the relationship. The three major takeaways from the book for me were: 1. Israeli-US relations do not harm US-Arab relations. 2. Close but honest relations between the two nati I read "Doomed to Succeed" at the perfect time. Since Obama decided not to veto the recent UN resolution, many people have been wondering about the future of the Israeli-American relationship. Ross's book is informative and instructive, chronicling different presidents approaches to Israel and why they succeed or failed in the relationship. The three major takeaways from the book for me were: 1. Israeli-US relations do not harm US-Arab relations. 2. Close but honest relations between the two nations and their leaders works best. 3. Bill Clinton was awesome in his peacemaking efforts. I'm wondering if Ross will ever revisit this book to add chapters as the relationship progresses, because I would be very interested in his take on future administrations. I have a feeling I will read this book again, and I intend to read Ross's other books on Israel as well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    Over the last four decades, Dennis Ross has spent his time serving five presidents and watching the Middle East roil. Now he has penned a bird’s-eye view of the relationship between the United States and Israel that also sounds like an audition to become Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state. Dryly written but with a clear thesis, Doomed to Succeed captures in detail the ups-and-downs between Washington and Jerusalem. It provides firsthand insight into the players who have molded the policies of Over the last four decades, Dennis Ross has spent his time serving five presidents and watching the Middle East roil. Now he has penned a bird’s-eye view of the relationship between the United States and Israel that also sounds like an audition to become Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state. Dryly written but with a clear thesis, Doomed to Succeed captures in detail the ups-and-downs between Washington and Jerusalem. It provides firsthand insight into the players who have molded the policies of both countries for nearly 40 years and is worth the read. http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nuno Mota

    For those who like politics and relate themselves to Israel, this book is a very good read. The author does have a biased opinion toward Israel, in a messy and chaotic Middle East foreign affairs. It brings incredible insight on the President's and their aid's standing. It terms of Israel relations, it goes to great lengths to show that many that stood beside several of the presidents didn't have the proper experience nor candor to do the job right. Some showed themselves not being up to the task For those who like politics and relate themselves to Israel, this book is a very good read. The author does have a biased opinion toward Israel, in a messy and chaotic Middle East foreign affairs. It brings incredible insight on the President's and their aid's standing. It terms of Israel relations, it goes to great lengths to show that many that stood beside several of the presidents didn't have the proper experience nor candor to do the job right. Some showed themselves not being up to the task, pretty incompetent to say the least. Very insightful reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gerry Connolly

    Dennis Ross is a thoughtful expert on the Middle East. Unfortunately Doomed To Succeed is less so. The U.S. misunderstands Israel but rarely the reverse. Ross soft pedals Netanyahu's disastrous politics. Disappointing. Dennis Ross is a thoughtful expert on the Middle East. Unfortunately Doomed To Succeed is less so. The U.S. misunderstands Israel but rarely the reverse. Ross soft pedals Netanyahu's disastrous politics. Disappointing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    CjPounce

    Amb. Dennis Ross one of the authorities on the region after serving in four American administrations (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama). He carefully and intellectually dissects every administration from Truman to Obama, focusing on core assumptions made by each president and how they affected US foreign policy and our relationship with Israel. This organization is both clear and informative because it allows for readers to see the bigger trends in the past 80 years among all the gritty details of t Amb. Dennis Ross one of the authorities on the region after serving in four American administrations (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama). He carefully and intellectually dissects every administration from Truman to Obama, focusing on core assumptions made by each president and how they affected US foreign policy and our relationship with Israel. This organization is both clear and informative because it allows for readers to see the bigger trends in the past 80 years among all the gritty details of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I am attending an intensive seminar with the Amb currently, and his expertise is incredible. If you are looking for a book portal into the Arab-Israeli conflict, I highly recommend this novel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    A very thorough analysis of the history of the US-Israeli relationship. Definitely pro-Israel (he doesn’t really speak negatively about the country at all, including condemning settlements). It should be duly noted that the author himself is Jewish, so naturally he comes in with that perspective & bias.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian Katz

    Excellent book. Illustrated how each Administration from Truman to Obama failed to find a way to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This book proves that peace will not happen unless the Palestinians want peace.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Harris Fogel

    Very insightful! Great lesson on the relationship with Israel and the Middle East through the administrations. Thank you for sharing your insight and expertise!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Pretty good. I especially enjoyed Ross's discussion of Obama's transformation from Israel skeptic to supporter. Pretty good. I especially enjoyed Ross's discussion of Obama's transformation from Israel skeptic to supporter.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Another great book by Ambassador Ross. Instructive for the times in which we live.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Cantor

    Was fairly boring and repetitive. I am sure there is lots of good insight in here but I don't feel as though I garnered a better understanding of the relationship. Was fairly boring and repetitive. I am sure there is lots of good insight in here but I don't feel as though I garnered a better understanding of the relationship.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marc Ballon

    A must read for anyone interested in US-Israeli relations over the decade. Dennis Ross knows his stuff and how to tell a tale.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jon-Erik

    Ross's central contentions here are that the United States' diplomacy has been guided in large part by a fear of angering Arab states that only came to fruition once in the oil embargo of 1979. Ross is a diplomat so I think he might be confusing what might make Arab states' governments angry at us and what might make their populations angry, as though the latter were irrelevant. Indeed, quite often they were. You see this issue play out all the time in Latin America. We want to please our allies Ross's central contentions here are that the United States' diplomacy has been guided in large part by a fear of angering Arab states that only came to fruition once in the oil embargo of 1979. Ross is a diplomat so I think he might be confusing what might make Arab states' governments angry at us and what might make their populations angry, as though the latter were irrelevant. Indeed, quite often they were. You see this issue play out all the time in Latin America. We want to please our allies, but sometimes those allies are ghastly dictators who are so unpopular that if they ever lose power, their replacements will hate us just for having supported the past bad guy. But I'm not at all convinced that it would matter if we didn't. As much as we aren't often punished for being Pro-Israel, we are never rewarded for distancing from it. Ross makes the case that we've come closer to peace when we've had administrations that made Israel feel comfortable and backs it up. He also backs up the claim about a lack of retaliation against us for backing Israel up. But aside from not convincing me that relying on this too much wouldn't have caused Arab states we've supported to lose power, The second major point is that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict won't solve the entire situation in the Middle East all at once. Anyone who believes this needs to read more. In fact, it probably won't even make life all that much better on the Palestinians, at least not at first. It's hardly a top concern for people living in worse situations elsewhere, except in propaganda. That's not to say it doesn't resonate, but America's presence in the region will resonate the same way even after that.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jef Sneider

    Dennis Ross has had an amazing career across multiple American administrations. His view seems to have remained consistent, and at odds with the view from much of the State Department. He has always been skeptical about the degree to which Arab states, especially those friendly to us, are put off by the US relationship with Israel. Over and over again, he shows that even when the US moves closer to Israel, the Arab states do not move away from us. Conversely, no matter how tough we are on Israel Dennis Ross has had an amazing career across multiple American administrations. His view seems to have remained consistent, and at odds with the view from much of the State Department. He has always been skeptical about the degree to which Arab states, especially those friendly to us, are put off by the US relationship with Israel. Over and over again, he shows that even when the US moves closer to Israel, the Arab states do not move away from us. Conversely, no matter how tough we are on Israel, the Arab states rarely give any recognition of the fact or reward such a posture on our part. From Dennis Ross's vantage point, the Israelis are tough and difficult to deal with. Each president has had to create his own relationship with Israeli Prime Ministers - left, right and center. It is interesting to note how often an American president has developed a special concern and affinity for Israel, favoring the Jewish state over the objections of the state department bureaucrats, and how presidents have had to balance their feelings for Israel against the State Department leadership and the affinities of the American public and congress for the Jewish state. This book is an exhausting and well referenced report on more than 60 years of American diplomacy towards the Middle East. While the author skips over or touches only lightly major events that are outside of the Arab Israeli conflict, like the Iran-Iraq war or the Arab Spring, he gives the reader an in depth view of exchanges between the US and Israel on strategic issues large and small. The book adds color and depth to Israel's continuing struggle for survival and prosperity. For this American, who has lived most of those 60 plus years with Israel, it provides valuable and important insights and background material.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Disappointing My overall reaction is the book disappoints if you are looking for an in depth analysis of the failures by all parties to reach a negotiated two state solution. It is more an homage to Dennis Ross by Dennis Ross than a genuine analysis of the failures of diplomacy by all parties. Ross clearly spends enormous effort to attack the State Department's traditional position that resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli issues will bring the Arab countries in line with US interests and theref Disappointing My overall reaction is the book disappoints if you are looking for an in depth analysis of the failures by all parties to reach a negotiated two state solution. It is more an homage to Dennis Ross by Dennis Ross than a genuine analysis of the failures of diplomacy by all parties. Ross clearly spends enormous effort to attack the State Department's traditional position that resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli issues will bring the Arab countries in line with US interests and therefore the US should tilt toward the Arab governments and against Israel. He may be correct to some extent historically about the State Department but in making his point, he repeatedly downplays and excuses the failures of Israeli leaders and in particular Netanyahu from making any real effort to negotiate a two state solution. To the contrary, Ross excuses the frantic expansion of settlements in the occupied territories by claiming it was too much to ask of the Israeli leadership from an internal political point of view. The overall picture one gets is of disappointing and inconsistent diplomatic effort with recalcitrant Israeli leadership and weak and incompetent Palestinian leadership. The result is what we have today - where are the profiles in courage on any side?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ian Cook Westgate

    Very engrossing but requires you already have a background in the names and personalities of every administration from Truman to the present. Otherwise it would probably come off as super dense and you will need to do a lot of googling. Would recommend as it is very informative, but he definitely has a pro-Israel bias and glosses over some of the terrible things they've done over the last fifty years. Still interesting though, and it helps show that we were distant with Israel more often than not Very engrossing but requires you already have a background in the names and personalities of every administration from Truman to the present. Otherwise it would probably come off as super dense and you will need to do a lot of googling. Would recommend as it is very informative, but he definitely has a pro-Israel bias and glosses over some of the terrible things they've done over the last fifty years. Still interesting though, and it helps show that we were distant with Israel more often than not since it was created. One interesting note regarding current events is that, according to the author, President Obama has provided more tangible assistance and supplies to Israel than any president ever has before. Nonetheless, he is demonized by many for leaving Israel out high and dry, which is definitely not true. Stern though he has been with them over their actions, he has never shied away from helping to defend them, which was something I did not know before reading this book!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cliff

    This is a fascinating book by one of the most experienced hands in history of US/Israeli relations, not the least of which is because for much of it, the author was personally involved. It's not a dynamic book, it's dry even by standards of a political memoir, but his treatment of the topic is serious, and thorough, considering the breadth and length of the topic, and a good overview of a lot of complicated issues. It's not going to wow people who aren't already interested in the topic, but it i This is a fascinating book by one of the most experienced hands in history of US/Israeli relations, not the least of which is because for much of it, the author was personally involved. It's not a dynamic book, it's dry even by standards of a political memoir, but his treatment of the topic is serious, and thorough, considering the breadth and length of the topic, and a good overview of a lot of complicated issues. It's not going to wow people who aren't already interested in the topic, but it is certainly worth a read for a good overview of the issues involved from a first-hand practitioner at the hight of his knowledge and expertise.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Interesting insider view. Heavily detailed--perhaps a bit too detailed, in some cases, to the detriment of the overall narrative. But that is understandable--the author is very thorough in presenting this history of a perennially controversial topic, including his own role in it. The fact that he served both Democratic and Republican presidencies, in my view, makes the book even more interesting and revealing than it would have been otherwise.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Blanton

    This tried very hard to make the same argument that Dennis Ross (and partly in consequence, the US) has used to dictate its middle east policy for decades. While it was well expressed, it was clearly not without bias and opinion. I wish I head left this book feeling more informed, instead I left it feeling that I needed an unbiased or counter perspective.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gil J. Bonwitt

    Great insight on the relationship Dennis Ross has a unique perspective because of his long history working on the US Israel relationship. Enjoyed hearing the different stories from a first hand source and having a strategic perspective on the relationship. Highly recommend.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a very comprehensive account of the relations between the US govt and the countries in the Middle East. From Truman to Obama, Dennis Ross Gives us a textbook styled, detailed account of the nuances in the relationships.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Saurabh Shrivastava

    How can someone make a book on such interesting topic, so boring... Felt bored within first 5 mins every time I picked this book... Took a little less than 3 months to finish it... Hope there are better books on my shelf this year....

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