Ross School

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Panel Discussion - Palestinian/Israeli Conflict

On Wednesday March 3rd, in Cairo, Mrs. Ross hosted a panel discussion about the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Mrs. Ross and eight Ross students are traveling in Turkey and Egypt to study the "Golden Matrix:" the transfer of knowledge from classical Greece through medieval Baghdad, al-Andalus, and Byzantium to the Renaissance. The panel consisted of: Dr. Ahmed Tibi; an Israeli Arab Member of Knesset; Ambassador Avi Gil, former Director-General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Mostafa El Feki, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament; and Ambassador Juergen Chrobog, Former German Ambassador to the United States and former Deputy Foreign Minister. The distinguished panelists first introduced the students to the conflict and its history. The conflict finds its origins in the 1947 UN partition plan. According to Dr. El Feki, the conflict has been "a series of missed opportunities," especially the Camp David Summit in 2000.

The panel occurred on an opportune day: just that day in Cairo, the Arab League decided to accept the United States' invitation to help bring all parties to the negotiating table. With the participation of all interested parties and the support of strong US diplomacy, the panelists believe that negotiations can seriously progress. According to the panelists, productive negotiations would need the involvement of The Quartet (The US, EU, UN, and Russia), including and increased role of the EU and Russia. Russian Ambassador MIkhail Bogdanov later spoke about Russia's role in future negotiations. The panelists conveyed a strong sense of urgency. They believe that the deadlock must be broken within the next four months, or else motivation may be lost. After the discussion segment of the event, the panel opened up to student questions. One student asked whether the seemingly perpetual conflict is fueled by nationalist sentiments among the youth in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The panelists said it was exactly that. Another student asked whether the domestic political situations within Israel and the Palestinian Territories are conducive to negotiations. The panelists stressed that an accord must "come from within," and not be forced upon the parties. However, the panelist acknowledged at the same time that the United States is needed to move negotiations along. The event certainly made all participants aware of what the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian people each need to commit in order to create fruitful negotiations and of the potential solutions to the conflict.

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