Distinguished Speaker To Discuss Middle East

Photo Courtesy of Newpaltz.edu

Ambassador Dennis Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, will be the 2013 Spring Distinguished Speaker.

Ross will be giving his lecture “Challenges for American Foreign Policy in the Middle East” on Tuesday, April 16 in Lecture Center 100 at 7:30 p.m.

According to the Washington Institute’s website, Ross has played a “leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations” for more than 12 years.

The Institute said Ross worked as a counselor from 2001 to 2009 and rejoined in 2011 after working as special assistant to President Barack Obama for two years, serving as National Security Council senior director for the Central Region and spending a year as special advisor to former Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Having been director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff under George H.W. Bush and special Middle East coordinator under Bill Clinton, Ross was a key figure in many peace processes.

Some of his achievements include helping Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995 Interim Agreement, negotiating the 1997 Hebron Accord, handling the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty and actively working to unite Israel and Syria, the website said.

The Institute said under the first Bush administration, Ross also played an integral part in “U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations and the 1991 Gulf War coalition.”

Ross received the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service from Clinton and the State Department’s most prestigious award from former Secretaries of State James Baker and Madeleine Albright.

A published author as well, he has written several books on the peace process, such as his most recent “Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East,” co-authored by Institute peace process expert David Makovsky and “The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace,” his analysis and personal insight into the Middle East peace process.

According to the New Paltz website, Ross’s lecture will explore the consequences of the Arab Awakening for the region and U.S. policy, the U.S., Israel and Iranian nuclear issue and the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

After Ross’s presentation, 2013 Ottaway Fellow and NPR Middle East Correspondent Deborah Amos will moderate a question and answer session. A book signing and reception will follow the event.

Although he was not involved in selecting Ross as the distinguished speaker, Professor Lewis Brownstein sits on the committee chaired by Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences James Schiffer, which organizes events pertaining to the Middle East.

Brownstein said he knows “a great deal” about Ross’s work, especially his involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peace discussions, and believes it will be valuable to learn from someone with his expertise.

“He will be speaking on the current state of those negotiations and on the upheavals in the area. There is no one more knowledgeable on these topics,” Brownstein said. “This is a major opportunity for our students to hear someone of his stature.”

Fourth-year international relations major Theodore Griese said he is disappointed he has class during Ross’s visit, as it would be an exceptional educational experience.

“We are really lucky to have such a distinguished person coming to campus and I like that Deborah Amos will be there too,” Griese said.  “As an international relations major, I get really nerdy about these things, but hopefully everyone else realizes it’s a pretty rare opportunity to get some first-hand knowledge about issues most people don’t know enough about.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased in advance at the box office in Parker Theatre or on a first come first serve basis at the door the night of. They cost $18 for the general public, $13 for faculty, staff, seniors, alumni and non-New Paltz students and are free for New Paltz students with ID.