Daniel Kurtzer is a former US Ambassador to Israel, where he served from 2001 to 2005. He was also the US ambassador to Egypt from 1997 to 2001. He was with the US Foreign Service for 29 years, and was instrumental in shaping and implementing US policy on the peace process.
Ambassador Kurtzer is currently with Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs where he is the S. Daniel Abraham professor in Middle Eastern policy studies.
He is the author and editor of a number of books about the US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including his most recent volume, for which he was editor, Pathways to Peace: America and The Arab-Israeli Conflict .
In Pathways to Peace , Ambassador Kurtzer outlines a roadmap for a more dynamic US policy for the peace process.
Ambassador Kurtzer spoke to Empire about his experiences of the negotiations, bringing forward how not just Israel, but the Palestinians also wanted US sponsorship.
Nathan Thrall is a writer and a senior analyst with the Middle East and North Africa Program of the International Crisis Group. Thrall is based in Jerusalem and has worked with the International Crisis Group focuses on Gaza, Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank.
He has written about US foreign policy, the peace process, Israeli and Palestinian politics, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Salafi jihadi groups.
He is also a contributing editor to The Tablet Magazine .
Thrall joined Empire as part of a panel to discuss the the history of the peace process, the relationship between Israel and the US, and to offer his analysis on the latest round of talks.
Aaron David Miller
Aaron David Miller is a former senior adviser at the US state department for Arab-Israeli negotiations and participated in US efforts to broker agreements between Israel, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinians.
He is currently with the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and he serves on the US Advisory Council of Israel Policy Forum.
He is the author of a number of books including The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace .
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian political leader, activist, legislator and scholar, and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, a position that she has held since 2009.
Pre-Oslo, Ashrawi was the official spokeswoman for the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East peace process during the Madrid conference in 1991. Ashrawi founded the executive committees of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, the National Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, and the Independent Commission for Human Rights.
She is also on the advisory board of a number of organizations, such as World Bank Middle East and North Africa, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and the International Human Rights Council.
Dr. Ashrawi is the recipient of the 2005 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation, and the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize. She writes on Palestinian politics and culture and her book, This Side of Peace: a Personal Account (Simon & Schuster, 1995) is an insider’s perspective on the Oslo talks.
Ashrawi spoke to Empire in Ramallah about how US and Israel’s special relationship is detrimental to peace, but also to the interests of the US.
Edward P. Djerejian
Ambassador Djerejian served as US ambassador to Israel between 1993 and 1994. Prior to that, he served as the US ambassador to Syria from 1989 to 1991 and as the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs during both the Clinton and the H.W. Bush administrations.
America’s role has been both as a catalyst and a party that stood by. Edward P. Djerejian, Middle East expert He is the founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Texas.
Djerejian is considered an expert on the Middle East, US foreign policy and national security, and has been an important figure in the Arab-Israeli peace process.
He is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, Department of State's Distinguished Honor Award, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
He is also the author of Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador's Journey Through the Middle East .
Empire went to the Baker Institute, in Houston, Texas, to visit Ambassador Djerejian who shared his insights and discussed with us how the US has missed opportunities and why a “strong American hand” is critical to this process.
Noura Erakat, who is a human rights lawyer and activist, teaches International Human Rights Law in the Middle East at Georgetown University.
She is currently an Abraham L. Freedman Teaching Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law.
And Erakat served as the Legal Advocacy Coordinator for the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights.
Erakat is the co-editor of Jadaliyya , an electronic publication on the Middle East.
She joined Empire to speak about the US' role in the peace process, and how the country ultimately stands to gain from the creation of a Palestinian state.
Peter Beinart is a senior political writer at The Daily Beast magazine and the editor-in-chief of its blog Open Zion , which aims to foster an “open, unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish future.”
A former Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Beinart was the editor of The New Republic between 1999 and 2006.
He is the author of three books - his most recent one, The Crisis of Zionism , takes a close look at the intimate and complex relationship between the American establishment, American Jews and Israel.
The Week magazine named Beinart columnist of the year in 2004.
He joined Empire to discuss how the peace process has become a touchstone for US leadership, and how the Kerry effort is important for American prestige in the region and around the world.
“I think America has made a lot of very serious mistakes," argues Beinart.
"I am also dubious that any other power or constellation of powers would have been more successful because you do need to have the trust of Israel in order to broker a deal between the two sides.”
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University, where he teaches courses on Modern Middle Eastern History; the United States, the Middle East and the Cold War; Islamic Movements in the Modern Middle East; the Modern History of Palestine; and Nationalism in the Arab World.
Khalidi served as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993. He is the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies , and has written seven books on the Middle East.
His most recent book, Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East , examines the US failure as a peace broker through three key historical moments – the Reagan Plan of 1982; the period following the Madrid Peace Conference that culminated in the Oslo Accords; and the policies pursued by the Barack Obama administration on Israeli settlements.
Khalidi joined Empire to speak about how the US cannot be kept away from the negotiations but also makes for the worst possible mediator, and argues that the latest round of negotiations between Israel and Palestine are a "walking dead" with no hope of a solution.
“The United States is the 900-pound gorilla on the block. You cannot keep them away from the negotiating table.”
A former member of Knesset and former chairman of the Meretz-Yachad party, Yossi Beilin served as a minister under three different Israeli prime ministers – Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak.
He played a key role from the Israeli side in the secret channel that led to the Oslo Accords in 1992.
Beilin’s subsequent negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas in 1995 laid the foundation for the Clinton parameters. In addition, he was a negotiator in the Taba talks in 2001, and co-launched the Geneva Initiative in 2003 along with Yasser Abed Rabbo of the Palestinian side.
He is the author of several books, including Israel: A Concise Political History, Touching Peace, The Manual for Leaving Lebanon, His Brother’s Keeper , and Manual for a Wounded Dove.
Beilin joined Empire from Jerusalem to speak about the hopes that Oslo brought with it, how they were dashed, and how Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination were a fatal blow to the peace process.
Terje Rod-Larsen, who is currently the president of the International Peace Institute, established the Fafo Institute for Applied Sciences in Oslo in 1981, which undertook a research project on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
He helped establish a secret channel between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israeli government officials in 1992, that eventually led to the Oslo Accords, and the signing of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993.
Subsequent to the signing of the Accords, Rod-Larsen continued to be involved in the Middle East – as the ambassador and special adviser for the Middle East peace process to the Norwegian foreign minister, and then as the United Nations special co-ordinator in the Occupied Territories.
In 1996, he ventured back into domestic politics, serving as Norway’s deputy prime minister and minister for Planning and Cooperation.
He rejoined the United Nations soon after, serving as the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process and personal representative of the secretary-general to the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
He has also served as the special envoy of the UN secretary-general to Lebanon.
Rod-Larsen joined Empire in Oslo to recount how he got the Israeli and Palestinian sides to start talking in secret twenty years ago, and offers a behind-the-scenes peek into the public and private positions of the negotiators.
Alvaro de Soto
Alvaro de Soto, a Peruvian diplomat and international mediator, had a 25-year career at the UN.
He left the organisation in 2007 after serving as the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process for two years.
De Soto worked with three UN secretary-generals and was involved in the several conflict resolution efforts, including the groundbreaking negotiations that helped end the war in El Salvador and the negotiations on Cyprus.
Among his other key roles were that of political adviser to Boutros Boutros-Ghali and that of a UN special envoy in Myanmar. He is currently a member of the Global Leadership Foundation and a senior fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute in New York.
De Soto spoke to Empire about the failure to reach a peace agreement in the twenty years since Oslo.