Question: What impact does your work have on the world?
Dennis Ross: Well what I hope my work will have an impact on is identifying conflicts where actually you say, “Alright look. We don’t have to live with these conflicts. We can try to settle them.” One of the reasons that I think it’s so valuable to work on the Arab-Israeli conflict is there is a perception in the world where that’s simply intractable.
Now if you could actually solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, it would have an impact psychologically everywhere. I mean it’s not a panacea. For those who say, “Gee, if we could just solve the Palestinian issue, we wouldn’t have a conflict in Iraq. Iran wouldn’t be pursuing nuclear weapons.” That’s ridiculous. They would be, and we’d still have a conflict in Iraq. The Sunni-Shia divide is not a function of what goes on between Israelis and Palestinians. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons because they have ambitions to dominate the region.
I like to say about Iran that if you watch the Sopranos, you understand the Iranians. Basically they want the position of being able to have everyone know that if Iran doesn’t want you to do something you don’t do it. So the critical thing is you’re not going to solve everything by solving this conflict. But you send a message everywhere internationally that if this, the most intractable of all conflicts, in fact can be resolved, then any conflict can be resolved.
September 12, 2007