The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.
Doomed To Succeed, by Dennis Ross, is an extraordinary book for anyone that wants to understand how US Presidents from Truman through Obama have reacted toward Israel, their policies, and the reasoning behind them. Dennis Ross has been a direct participant in shaping U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and Israel specifically, for nearly thirty years, participating in two Republican and two Democratic administrations. This is not a history of Arab-Israeli peace efforts but rather a discussion of the evolution of Israeli-American diplomatic relations.
In reading this book people will learn how the different Presidents have viewed the relationship with Israel. For example, JFK was the first President to sell arms and talk about the special relationship, Eisenhower and LBJ were preoccupied with other events such as the Cold War and Vietnam, and that the reason Nixon supplied Israel with arms on the eighth day of the Yom Kippur War was because no cease fire was accepted, the Russians were resupplying Egypt and Syria, and he did not want it to be seen in the context as Soviet arms defeating US arms. The chapter on Bill Clinton is also very insightful in that Ross views this President as the only one who “did not see Israel as a problem and refused to have public discourse with Israel.”
One of the most important points to be made in the book is that Presidents, such as Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Bush 41, and Obama, were not successful when they chose to redefine the relationship with Israel in order to gain with the Arabs. Yet, those Presidents who cooperated with Israel did not have the expected negative fallout with the Arab countries. Ross emphasizes in the book, “As the scope of US strategic and military cooperation with Israel has grown to unprecedented levels, the US presence in a number of Arab Gulf states has also dramatically increased.”
He directly noted to blackfive.net, that the recent Iran Deal is the perfect example. “What I say in the book is that the Arab leaders are focused on their regional rivals who see it as a direct threat to their security and survival: Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, Saddam and Gaddafi the 1970s and 1980s, and today with the Iranians. Specifically the sanction relief that will allow them more resources to cause trouble.” He also makes an interesting premise, that the Palestinian issue is not a priority for the Arab leaders
Regarding the Palestinians, President Obama, according to Ross, “sees them as too weak to criticize and therefore reserves his criticism for Israel. The problem is when you give them a pass it becomes difficult for them to compromise because they also see themselves as the victim. If you always give them a pass and never hold them accountable why would they change their behavior? I remember commenting, if they are too weak to be criticized, to weak to be held accountable, then they are too weak to have a state. Those in this administration that feel that there must be a peace accord between the Palestinians and Israelis do not understand that nothing is going to change what is happening in Syria, or with ISIS.”
He explained directly, the reason he entitled the book Doomed To Succeed, “Although we may have differences from time to time what binds us is so much stronger than what divides us. Our relationship is rooted in shared values of being governed by the rule of law, civil liberties, separation of powers, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and respect for gay rights and women rights. There is no other country like Israel in the Middle East. It has retained its democratic character even with all the threats it faces.”
Doomed to Succeed offers compelling advice for how to understand the priorities of Arab leaders, Israel, and how future administrations might best shape U.S. policy in that light. This book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the US-Israel relationship.