Former diplomat Dennis Ross to speak at UMass

  • In this Oct. 21, 2016 photo, students pass the Old Chapel on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst. AP FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 3/31/2019 11:36:40 PM

AMHERST — The Student Alliance for Israel, UMass Democrats, and UMass Republicans are joining forces to bring former diplomat Dennis Ross to campus on April 2 for a lecture on his efforts for peace in the Middle East.

Ross played a key role in shaping peace negotiations and policy in the Middle East for decades. He served under four presidents, two Republican and two Democrat, proving to be an influential figure in foreign relations.

Stephanie Margolis, president of the Student Alliance for Israel, believes that Ross is the perfect fit as a speaker for the group’s annual Israel Peace Week and hopes bringing together the three different groups on campus will help create a unified community.

“Due to his work in politics and diplomacy, we felt [that it] is best to invite the UMass Democrats and UMass Republicans to co-host, so that we may reach as many students as possible,” Margolis wrote in an email. “We want to show bipartisan interest in and support for Israel and spark dialogue surrounding what peace in the region looks like.”

During the Reagan administration, Ross served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff. Ross was director of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department during the first Bush administration, special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and special assistant to President Barack Obama and National Security Council senior director for the Central Region. He also served as special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Throughout the 1990s, Ross rose to prominence as a negotiator in Middle Eastern affairs. In 1994, he facilitated the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. He also helped Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995 Interim Agreement; brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord; and worked to bring Israel and Syria together. Throughout his long career, he formed strong connections with many Israeli and Palestinian officials.

“We think it’s important for people to hear Ambassador Ross speak because students oftentimes don’t have access to hear from those who were in the room when decisions were made,” said Tim Ennis, vice president of UMass Democrats.

Ambassador Ross currently serves as a counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on foreign policy in the Middle East.

“We want attendees to walk away from this event having learned more about the peace process and having gained greater interest in engaging in dialogue about Israel,” said Margolis. She is hoping for over 200 attendees.

The April 2 event is co-sponsored by Hasbara, CAMERA, UMass Hillel and THE David Project. It will begin at 7 p.m. in room N1 51 in the Integrated Learning Center at UMass. Admission is free.

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