The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Understanding Today, Navigating Tomorrow
Director, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Program, U.S. Institute of Peace
Thursday, July 15, 2021 at 09:00 am Pacific Time (US and Canada) via Zoom
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Welcome to our summer of NSF virtual programs. For an update on our plans to transition to in-person/Zoom hybrid programs, please see my 28 Jun 2021 letter (emailed and posted on NSF website) Thank you again for your patience as we skipped a couple of programs while we organized the Youth Security Forum in May and surveyed you about future venue options in June. Please stay safe and cool, while we strive to keep you informed.
“The last two years in Israel have been marked by unprecedented political paralysis. Since April 2019, the country has been through four elections. The previous three rounds ended in no candidate able to convince a majority of the 120-seat Knesset (as the Israeli parliament is known) to follow them into a governing coalition…The potential, new governing coalition [under Prime Minister Naftali Bennet] brings together parties across a wide-ranging political and ideological spectrum…Bottom line, a studied focus by the new Israeli coalition on unifying domestic priorities and nurturing the relationship with Washington could provide some welcome news and breathing room for a U.S. administration that came into office less than eager to prioritize or get distracted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (Lucy Kutzer-Ellebogen, USIP blog 03Jun21available at: USIP Can Israel’s New Coalition Change the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?
As challenging as politics have become in the United States, nothing holds a candle to the tumult that Israel has been through over the last three years. With four elections proving indecisive and Benjamin Netanyahu being pushed out as Prime Minister in May, after 12 years at the helm, Israel is contending with internal upheaval at the same time as it navigates external challenges. Meanwhile Palestinian political paralysis and division persists, with long overdue Palestinian legislative elections scheduled then ultimately canceled at the eleventh hour, and Hamas and Fatah continuing their rift and divided rule. How these political developments and realities play out and what they mean for Middle East peace is anyone’s guess right now. Lucky for NSF, we have an expert guesser to lead us through the events that led to the current state of chaos and where things may go in the future. Our speaker, Ms. Lucy Kutzer-Ellenbogen is the Director of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Lucy is a policy expert steeped in the boiling stew of steps and missteps that have vexed the Middle East for decades. The unending cycle of conflict, ceasefires, successful peace talks, failed peace talks, more conflict…wash, rinse, repeat…have driven most scholars to seek more rewarding areas of study. We are grateful that Lucy stuck with this area and is willing to share her insight about what got us to where we are now and what paths lie ahead for Israel and the Palestinians to follow (or not).
As one of our closest allies, Israel commands the attention of the US national security community even when a US Administration wants to shy away from putting the Israel-Palestinian “problem” front and center. Relegating it to “later” only works until the pot boils over as happened to the Biden-Harris Administration a mere 100 days into office.
To provide context for what paths may be navigated by all parties – Israel, Palestinian leadership, US, and others – in the future, Lucy will walk us through recent developments in the political situations in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and Gaza), and how these factors have yielded rising tensions between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. Recognition that these issues are happening in the context of local, regional, and global attitudes about the conflict and recent geopolitical realignments including the 2020 Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and two neighboring Arab countries (United Arab Emirates and Bahrain), is essential to understanding where we go from here.
Lucy will then shine a much-needed light on the trajectory of the conflict and the diplomatic implications of action and inaction by the parties, the US, and the international community. All of this will bring us back to understanding why the Middle East situation matters so much to US national security and how peacebuilding in this region will strengthen security here at home.
I assured Lucy that NSF participants almost always do their homework in advance, so she graciously prepared the following list of reference materials that will give you plenty of fodder to inform your brilliant questions:
- Information about USIP’s program on the conflict: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/06/current-situation-israel-palestinian-territories-and-arab-israeli-conflict
- A 10 min. video “on the issues” conversation between Lucy and USIP Senior Fellow Amb. Hesham Youssef: https://www.usip.org/blog/2021/06/latest-israeli-palestinian-conflict-4-key-issues
- Lucy’s recent blog piece on the newly-formed Israeli coalition: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/06/can-israels-new-coalition-change-israeli-palestinian-conflict
- Recent brief commentary of Lucyt’s included in an MEI compilation of expert opinions, responding to question prompt on the Biden administration’s policy on the I-P conflict: https://www.mei.edu/publications/debate-biden-administrations-approach-israelpalestine /cross posted on USIP: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/06/bidens-implicit-warning-israelis-and-palestinians
- Broad overview blog piece by a USIP colleague, Robert Barron, of what sparked the May round of violence: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/05/what-sparked-latest-israeli-palestinian-confrontations
- Series of short-form analyses by our USIP Senior Fellow (and former Egyptian and Arab League Diplomat) Amb. Hesham Youssef on:
- Potential role of “new normalizers” for addressing the conflict: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/06/can-new-normalizers-advance-israeli-palestinian-peace
- Biden’s approach to the I-P conflict to date – a comparative view relative to past approaches: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/06/10-things-know-bidens-approach-israeli-palestinian-conflict
- Analyzing the I-P conflict in the context of changing regional and global realities: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/05/israeli-palestinian-conflict-amid-new-reality-and-new-region
- Steps the US could take after Gaza war de-escalation: https://www.usip.org/publications/2021/05/10-steps-washington-can-take-after-de-escalation-war-gaza
We welcome your participation in this event and your questions to our presenter. Remember that our Zoom webinars are open to the first 100 registrants, so please register early.
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Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen is the director of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict program at the U.S. Institute of Peace and frequently presents and publishes in a variety of academic, policy and media forums on policy and civil society efforts related to the conflict. She has previously worked with U.S. Department of State as an Arabic language specialist, and as the program officer for the Kennedy School of Government’s Middle East Initiative at Harvard University, where she managed work on the Israeli, Palestinian and Saudi Arabian portfolios.
Proficient in Hebrew and Arabic, Kurtzer-Ellenbogen’s graduate research focused on political and social identity in Arabic discourse, with an emphasis on the Arabic language press of the Arab citizen community in Israel. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Arabic and French from Georgetown University, and a master’s degree from Georgetown’s Arabic department with a dual concentration in linguistics and Arab area studies.