Sunday, January 17, 2010
Ross joined Jones on visit to Israel
Two facts emerged over the weekend about US National Security Adviser James Jones's recent trip to Israel: he was joined by NSC staffer Dennis Ross, an authority on Iran and the Middle East diplomatic process, and Jones went to Lebanon after visiting Israel.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski [file]
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region | World Few details were available regarding why Ross joined the trip, or why his presence was kept a guarded secret. US Embassy officials would not confirm Saturday evening that he was even here, though Israeli officials did confirm his participation as part of Jones's team.
In November, Ross went to China with another National Security Council staffer, Jeffrey Bader, to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. According to a Washington Post report at the time, Ross made clear to the Chinese that Israel could bomb Iran and severely damage China's crucial Persian Gulf oil needs if the nuclear program was not halted.
Jones met during his visit here with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and National Security Adviser Uzi Arad. The meetings are believed to have been dominated by Iran and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Another issue that was believed to have been discussed was Israeli concerns that US military and technological equipment being provided to Lebanon could fall into Hizbullah's hands.
Just prior to Jones's visit, The Jerusalem Post was informed that Israel had launched a diplomatic campaign to impress upon countries providing military assistance to Lebanon that any equipment and technology it provided the Beirut government was likely to make its way to Hizbullah.
According to government sources, Israel believes the Lebanese army and Hizbullah are now virtually indistinguishable, and - as such - Israel was calling on countries that provide military aid to Lebanon to rethink the matter.
The United States has long provided military assistance to Lebanon.
On Friday, Mike Hammer, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said that Jones went to Lebanon as part of his Middle East trip and met with President Michel Suleiman, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The statement said that during the meetings "Jones expressed support for strengthening Lebanon's state institutions, particularly the Lebanese Armed Forces, and for its missions to implement all UN Security Council resolutions relevant to Lebanon and protect all Lebanese citizens."
According to the statement, Jones "reiterated the United States's continued support for a sovereign and independent Lebanon and stressed that our efforts to achieve our goals in the Middle East, especially a comprehensive regional peace, will not come at Lebanon's expense."
In another diplomatic development, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Ghar Store arrived in the country last night for a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. After the one-on-one meeting, he flew to Jordan, but was scheduled to return to Israel Sunday for two more days of talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.
In Jerusalem, Store is scheduled to meet with Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Vice Premier Dan Meridor and opposition head Tzipi Livni.
Lieberman last met with Store in September at the United Nations, in a meeting during which Lieberman said that various incidents involving Oslo were creating a Norwegian foreign policy perceived in Jerusalem as anti-Israel.
Among the incidents Lieberman ticked off during that meeting were Norway's insistence on continued contact with Hamas, its divestment from Elbit, its sharp criticism of the settlements, and the fact that its representative did not walk out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech last September at the UN General Assembly in New York.