WASHINGTON — If all else fails, they can always pray for peace. A Saudi prince and a former Israeli spymaster will be talking about the two-state solution in a New York synagogue this month, as an Israel policy group takes its show on the road to drum up support for the seemingly moribund diplomatic vision.
It will be one of five gatherings set to take place this month in four major American cities. Each will focus on finding viable security arrangements under a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Israel Policy Forum, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting two states for two peoples, will be holding two conference-like events in New York (October 22) and Los Angeles (October 29), a panel discussion in Washington, DC (October 24) and two panel discussions in Chicago (October 25 and 26). The summits will attempt to educate Jewish communities on the core issues relevant to achieving the long-coveted resolution.
All of those confabs will place a “special emphasis” on reaching a two-state outcome that would ensure Israeli security, IPF’s executive director David Halperin told The Times of Israel on Monday. They will also bring together Israel, Palestinian and Arab officials.
The New York event, which will take place at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, will include a panel discussion with Efraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad; Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, a former chief of Saudi intelligence and ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom; and Michèle Flournoy, former US undersecretary of defense for policy.
Al-Faisal has had a joint appearance with an Israeli official before. Last year, he had a public discussion with IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror at an event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His conversation this year with Halevy, however, will provide a “chance to discuss the growing shared interests between Israel and the Arab world,” Halperin said.
Other speakers who will participate in panel discussions include retired US Marine Corps General John Allen; Nimrod Novik, a former foreign policy adviser to the late president Shimon Peres; and Rolly Gueron, a former division chief in the Mossad.
Halperin sees these events as the culmination of a two-year partnership IPF has forged with Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of former Israeli security officials, and the Center for New American Security, a progressive DC-based think tank. Together, they have focused on security concerns surrounding Israel relinquishing the necessary territory for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Many of the proposals they have introduced are based on a comprehensive plan developed by Allen at the direction of then-president Barack Obama during his push to strike an accord, as well as ideas from former Israeli security officials.
The series of panels set to take place over the five events will include discussions not just on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but also the Iran deal, growing ties between Israel and the Arab world, the ongoing turmoil in Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State terror group.
Beyond how to implement security arrangements that could result in a sustainable two-state outcome, the discussions will examine actions that can be taken in the short term to preserve the possibility of two states in the long term.
What will undoubtedly be up for discussion, Halperin said, will be US President Donald Trump’s attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, and his unwillingness to endorse the two-state goal that his last three predecessors championed.
In August, the State Department’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that embracing that position would make the US “biased.” That was not out of sync with a message Trump himself conveyed last February, when he said, standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
Such a dramatic shift in the American approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking is not something that can be ignored, Halperin said.
“There will definitely be discussion on where the United States can go from here and how the US silence on the two-state question will impact our core mission going forward,” he said. “That’s a question that will be discussed and one we need to grapple with.”