The former US envoy to the Middle East, Ambassador Dennis Ross, holds a prominent position in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation efforts and played different roles in trying to bring the differences between the two sides closer.
His contribution to the Alghad Middle East Forum 2019, was therefore of particular interest and provided the opportunity for participants to hear their personal views on the concerns of the negotiators.
Ross questioned the possibility that US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century", his administration's proposed Middle East peace plan, would provide enough input to resume negotiations or lay the groundwork for a solution.
However, he hinted that it could still be seen as an additional endeavor of various US administrations, even if it ended in failure.
Ross played down the importance of the US president's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there. "After the transfer of the US embassy, Trump made the Jerusalem issue even more central to the negotiations. The understanding on this issue is not accurate," he said.
Ross acknowledged a flaw in the administration's current approach to the mediation process, compared to previous US mechanisms, saying that he did not like the term "deal of the century" and preferred to refer to it as Trump's peace plan.
He said that "the US administration appointed a small team to set out the details of the peace plan and excluded many institutions and ministries in order to preserve its confidentiality."
During the Q&A session, Ross sought to reassure the Palestinians of Trump’s drive, and that of his administration, by trying to find a solution that would end the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
He pointed out that US interest remains important in itself and that Washington’s role in the search for peace is indispensable.
However, Ross reiterated that the Palestinian position is essential for achieving peace.
"The Palestinians are a strong party in the peace negotiating process," Ross said. "Any step forward can not be achieved without their participation and without ensuring a solution that would meet the demands of both sides."