Peace in the Middle East: Prospects and Roadblocks
Program Date: March 25, 2017
Ehud Barak has served as the Prime Minister of Israel and, more recently, as Defense Minister. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and was a leading figure in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
For the first time anywhere, these two respected voices sat down together for a discussion of their differing views on Middle East peace prospects in a conversation moderated by longtime journalist, author, and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright.
The Saltanah Ensemble of Washington, D.C., performed traditional and popular Middle Eastern music before the program and during intermission. Forum favorite and former board member Susan Greenbaum performed the National Anthem.
President and CEO of Davenport & Company, LLC and Forum board member I. Lee Chapman IV welcomed our patrons and guests to the program.
Prime Minister Barak, Dr. ElBaradei and Ms. Wright took the stage to begin the evening’s discussion.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak on the threat of ISIS
Prime Minister Ehud Barak Speaker Bio
Ehud Barak is one of the most recognizable names in Israeli politics, a man “who over a half-century career became Israel’s most decorated soldier and held the nation’s trifecta of top positions,” according to The New York Times.
Mr. Barak has served Israel as Prime Minister, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and most recently as Minister of Defense, a position he took on in 2007.
In 2012 he was bestowed the United States Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who praised Barak for his dedication to public service: “Through his distinguished military career, and the political career that followed, few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on Israeli security and prosperity and, I have to say, on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.”
A global statesman, Mr. Barak played a pivotal role in various Middle Eastern peace efforts. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named him 13th among its 100 Global Thinkers. The Wall Street Journal declared him “one of Israel’s towering military figures for much of the past two decades. He is seen as the architect of Israel’s air-power-heavy modern deterrence doctrine … Mr. Barak ended Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, and his peace proposals at the 2000 Camp David negotiations with the Palestinians remain a blueprint for ending the conflict.”
As Israel’s 10th Prime Minister, Ehud Barak led the country out of prolonged recession and into an economic boom, with 5.9% annual growth, record foreign investments, near zero inflation, a halved deficit and significantly decreased external debt.
However, the core of Prime Minister Barak’s government’s effort was devoted to the peace process: in May 2000 Prime Minister Barak ordered the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces from South Lebanon, ending 18 tragic and bloody years of Israel’s presence there. He led far-reaching efforts to negotiate peace agreements, first with Syria and later with the Palestinian authority, with the active participation of President Bill Clinton and his administration. Regrettably, these negotiations did not result in the breakthroughs necessary to conclude final agreements.
Before being elected Prime Minister, Mr. Barak completed an illustrious 36-year career in the Israeli Defense Forces as the most decorated soldier in its history. He was a key architect of the June 1976 Entebbe Operation for the rescue of passengers on the Air France aircraft hijacked by terrorists and forced to land at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
Additionally, he served as Chief of the General Staff of the IDF where he was involved in the negotiation and implementation of the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan—an especially meaningful event for Barak in light of his warm relationship with King Hussein.
Prime Minister Barak also previously served his country as Minister of the Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Barak received his Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and Physics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his M.SC in Economic Engineering Systems at Stanford University in California.
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei Speaker Bio
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei was Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from December 1997 until November 2009. He joined the IAEA in 1984 where he held a number of positions including Legal Adviser and Assistant Director General for External Relations. Dr. ElBaradei is currently Director General Emeritus of the IAEA.
Dr. ElBaradei was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1942, son of Aida Hegazi and the late Mostafa ElBaradei, a lawyer and former President of the Egyptian Bar Association. He gained a Bachelor’s degree in Law in 1962 at the University of Cairo, and a Doctorate in International Law at New York University School of Law in 1974.
He began his career in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964, serving in the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. During his career, Dr. ElBaradei participated in the policy and legal activities of many international and regional organizations including: the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, the Conference on Disarmament, the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization and the Commission on Human Rights.
From 1974 to 1978 Dr. ElBaradei was a special assistant and legal advisor to the Foreign Minister of Egypt. In 1980, he left the Egyptian Diplomatic Service to join the United Nations. From 1980 to 1984, he was a senior fellow responsible for the International Law Program at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. From 1981 to 1987, he was also an Adjunct Professor of International Law at the New York University School of Law.
Dr. ElBaradei has lectured widely in the fields of international law, international organizations, global equity and security, arms control, democratic transition and human rights. He is the author of various books and articles on these subjects.
In October 2005, Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way”. In its citation, the Norwegian Nobel Committee referred to Dr. ElBaradei as an “unafraid advocate” of new measures to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Dr. ElBaradei is an adjunct professor of Law at Cairo University School of Law and has been a board member of many organizations including: The Global Citizenship Commission; Transparency International; the International Crisis Group; the Coalition of Dialogue on Africa; the Global Economic Symposium; the American University in Cairo; the United Nations High Level Commission on HIV Prevention; The Cairo Regional Center for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA); International Luxemburg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe; Global Leadership Foundation (GLF) In 2014 he was Laureate in Residence at Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy.
Dr. ElBaradei resigned as Interim Vice President shortly after his appointment in protest over the use of violence against the supporters of the deposed president. Dr. ElBaradei is an advocate for peace, freedom and democracy in the Arab World. He played a leadership role in the Arab Spring of 2011 and assumed the responsibility of Interim Vice President of Egypt in 2013, following the mass country wide protests which led to the removal of President Morsi.
Dr. ElBaradei has received numerous other awards for his work as a public servant and as an advocate of tolerance, humanity and freedom. These include: Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal; Georgetown University Raymond “Jit” Trainor Award for distinction in the conduct of diplomacy; Dortmund “Der Steiger Award for Tolerance”; Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Human Security Award; “Keys of the City” of Bari and Florence, Italy and Montevideo, Uruguay and “Distinguished Visitor” of La Paz, Bolivia and Quito, Ecuador; Honorary Patron of the Philosophical Society, Trinity College, University of Dublin; “Golden Dove of Peace” prize from the President of Italy; “Atoms for Peace” prize by the International Institute for Sustainable Peace (IISP) and the World Council of Nuclear Workers (WONUC); World Nuclear Association award; “Peacebuilding Award” of the East West Institute; International Seville NODO Prize for Peace, Security and Inter-Cultural Dialogue; Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development and “Prize for Statesmanship”; Friends of Europe, Brussels.
Dr. ElBaradei is the recipient of honoris causa degrees from New York University, the University of Maryland, the American University in Cairo, the Free Mediterranean University (LUM), Bari, Soka University of Japan, Tsinghua University, Beijing, the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Konkuk University, Seoul, the University of Florence, the University of Buenos Aires, the National University of Cuyo, Argentina, Amherst, College, Cairo University, and the University of Dublin, Trinity College.
Dr. ElBaradei is married to Aida El Kashef, a retired early childhood teacher. They have a daughter, Laila, a lawyer, married to Neil Pizey, an investment banker— and who live in London—and a son, Mostafa, an IT manager, who lives in Istanbul. They have two granddaughters: Maya and Nina.
Robin Wright Moderator Bio
Robin Wright is a journalist, author, and foreign policy analyst, who has reported from more than 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Sunday Times of London, CBS News, and The Christian Science Monitor. Her latest book, Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, won the 2012 Overseas Press Club Award for best book on international affairs. Her other books include The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and US Policy and The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are.
Wright is a joint fellow at the US Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. She won the National Magazine Award for The New Yorker. She has also written for The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Foreign Affairs, and others.
Her foreign tours include five years in the Middle East, two years in Europe, seven years in Africa, and several years as a roving foreign correspondent. She has covered a dozen wars and several revolutions. She most recently covered US foreign policy for The Washington Post.
Wright has also been a fellow at the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Yale, Duke, Stanford, Dartmouth, and the University of California. She won the UN Correspondents Association Gold Medal for coverage of foreign affairs, the Overseas Press Club Award for “best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initiative,” and the National Press Club Award for best diplomatic reporting. The American Academy of Diplomacy selected her as the journalist of the year in 2004. She is also the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.
She has been a television commentator on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC programs, including Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, Nightline, Frontline, Charlie Rose, Larry King Live, Washington Week in Review, The Colbert Report, and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times
Mohamed ElBaradei, 2012
Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
Robin Wright, 2012
The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East
Sandy Tolan, 2007