Former Ambassador Dennis Ross, an expert on U.S.-Middle East relations, will speak tonight at 6 p.m. in Kemper Auditorium about the current violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Tensions between the two countries have flared up in recent weeks, as Hamas terrorists began firing rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel in late December. Israel responded with an invasion of Gaza. The invasion has already claimed the life of approximately 350 Palestinian civilians, according to the United Nations. Both sides are under heavy pressure to reach a ceasefire, due to a growing humanitarian crisis. Ross brokered peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in both the Clinton and second Bush administrations and served as Director of Policy Planning in the State Department during the first Bush administration. Ross also served in the State Department under Reagan. Ross was one of President-elect Barack Obama’s top foreign policy advisors during his campaign. According to Time magazine, there has been speculation that Ross will remain an advisor to Obama once he assumes the presidency. Daniah Missmar ’09, President of the Young Arab-American Leaders at Andover, and Emma Goldstein ’09, President of the Jewish Student Union, pushed to bring Ross to Andover. Talk of Ross’ potential visit began last year when Missmar gave a presentation about her research on anti-American sentiments in the Arab world. Missmar found that the primary cause of anti-American sentiments is United States foreign policy in the Middle East, specifically the United States’ pro-Israeli stance. A controversial speech given last year by Michael Tarazi ’85, a lawyer who works for the Palestine Liberation Organization, triggered discussion between Missmar and Goldstein about what the Palestinians and Israelis could be doing to compromise. Soon after, Missmar and Goldstein began planning to bring Ross to campus. They hoped Ross would bring a new perspective compared to Tarazi’s speech, and encourage people to form their own ideas and opinions. Ross faced criticism from some who argued that he was too pro-Israel when he led peace negotiations during the latter part of the Clinton administration. But much of the pro-Israel coalition found Ross too soft. Missmar said that she and Goldstein are “trying to make an effort to bridge the gap between these two cultures that aren’t really that different from each other.” Ross sat with leaders from both of these nations, and this is an “incredible opportunity,” said Goldstein, for students to ask him questions.