Which Way Forward? U.S.-Middle East Relations After the Election


The 2012 Palestine Center Annual Conference


“Which Way Forward? U.S.-Middle East Relations After the Election”

Friday, 9 November 2012


Panel I – U.S. Policy After the Election: A Reason for Change?

Participants: Dr. Hrair Balian, Mr. Mark Perry and Ms. Helena Cobban

Panel II – Taking Stock in the Arab Uprisings: Where are we headed?

Participants: Dr. Nathan Brown, Dr. Adel Iskandar and Dr. Kristin Diwan

Panel III – Public Discourse on Palestine: Reasons for Optimism?

Participants: Mr. Samer Badawi, Mr. Will Youmans, and Mr. Yousef Munayyer

Panel IV – Palestinian Strategy: Reform, Representation and a New Framework

Participants: Ms. Noura Erakat, Mr. Khaled Elgindy, and Ms. Leila Hilal


Panel I – U.S. Policy After the Election: A Reason for Change?
What will the outcome of the Presidential election mean for U.S. Middle East policy? If re-elected, will President Obama maintain similar policies or make significant adjustments? If Governor Romney is elected, what changes can we expect? Panelists will discuss the impact of the election on U.S. policy towards various actors in the region.

Dr. Hrair Balian is Director of the Conflict Resolution Program of The Carter Center, where he oversees the program’s efforts to monitor conflicts around the world and coordinates the Center’s cross-program efforts in the Middle East. He is also an adjunct professor at the Emory University Law School, teaching an advanced international negotiations seminar. Since 1991, Mr. Balian has worked in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the independent states emerging from the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and Africa, serving in intergovernmental organizations (the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and non-governmental organizations (International Crisis Group and others).

Mr. Mark Perry is an American author specializing in military, intelligence, and foreign affairs analysis. His articles have been featured in a number of leading publications including Foreign Policy, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, Newsday, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). He is the former co-Director of the Washington, DC, London, and Beirut-based Conflicts Forum, which specializes in engaging with Islamist movements in the Levant in dialogue with the West. Perry also served as an unofficial advisor to late PLO Chairman and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from 1989 to 2004. He is the author of Partners In Command (Random House, 2009) and Talking To Terrorists (2011) and is currently working on a study of the relationship between General Douglas MacArthur and President Franklin Roosevelt (Basic Books, 2013).

Ms. Helena Cobban is a British-American writer and researcher on international relations, with special interests in the Middle East, the international system, and transitional justice. In March 2010, she founded a new book-publishing company, Just World Publishing, LLC. By September 2012, its principal imprint, Just World Books, had published twelve titles on current foreign-policy issues. Ms. Cobban has also published widely in other print media on three continents. From 1993 through 2006, she contributed a regular column on diplomatic and strategic affairs to Al-Hayat (London). She has served as a Visiting Senior Fellow at Harvard University, Georgetown University, the Brookings Institution, and elsewhere. She currently sits on the Middle East Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch. 

Panel II – Taking Stock in the Arab Uprisings: Where are we headed?
Uprisings have led to the disappearance of some governments and the emergence of others. The political map of the region is changing and many questions remain about which direction the region is headed. Panelists will discuss the foreign policies of states in the region, the role of regional organizations like the Gulf Corporation Council and the impact of election outcomes in shaping policy changes.

Dr. Nathan Brown is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has served as a Carnegie Scholar and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and is the author of six books, including When Victory Is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics (Cornell University Press, January 2012) and Palestinian Politics After the Oslo Accords: Resuming Arab Palestine (University of California Press, 2003).

Dr. Adel Iskandar is a media and communication scholar who teaches in the Communication, Culture and Technology (CCT) program and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He is the author and coauthor of several works including Al-Jazeera: The Story of the Network that is Rattling Governments and Redefining Modern Journalism (Basic Books) and Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation (University of California Press). His forthcoming books include Mediating the Arab Uprisings (Tadween, 2012) and Egypt In Flux: Essay on an Unfinished Revolution (American University of Cairo Press, 2013).

Dr. Kristin Diwan is an Assistant Professor in Comparative and Regional Studies at the American University School of International Service. She works in both comparative politics and international relations, specializing in Arab and Islamist politics. Professor Diwan has many publications on the politics and political economy of the Arab Gulf, among them “Sovereign Dilemmas: Sovereign Wealth Funds in Saudi Arabia,” Geopolitics, 14/2 (April 2009); “Bahrain’s Shia Question,” Foreign Affairs (March 2011); and “Kuwait’s Impatient Youth Movement,” Foreign Policy (July 2011). She is currently completing a book manuscript on the emergence of Islamic banking in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states entitled From Petrodollars to Islamic Dollars: Islamic Finance in the Arab Gulf.

Panel III – Public Discourse on Palestine: Reasons for Optimism?
As occupation persists and technology develops, a growing number of Americans are challenging the long-held Israeli narrative of events and history in the region. We ask what changes there have been in U.S. media coverage, what role new and social media plays in that and what we can expect of these trends going forward.

Mr. Samer Badawi is a communications manager with the Institute for Middle East Understanding, an independent non-profit that works to provide resources and accurate information about Palestine and the Palestinians to journalists. Previously, he served as Director of Resource Development and Communications with the Geneva-based Welfare Association, as Executive Director of United Palestinian Appeal in Washington, DC, and as DC correspondent for Middle East International. In addition to his work on Middle East issues, Badawi has served as a communications consultant to the World Bank, the IFC, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Mr. Will Youmans is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. Broadly interested in questions of transnationalism and news media in conflict, his primary research interests include global news, journalism, media law, and social movements. He is currently researching the development of Arab media law as well as the role of transnational media in U.S.-Arab relations. Youmans has presented at numerous conferences, including the annual gatherings of the Middle East Studies Association, the International Communication Association, the National Communication Association, the International Studies Association, and the American Sociological Association.

Mr. Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, The Palestine Center. He frequently writes on matters of foreign policy in the Arab and Muslim world, and civil rights and civil liberties issues in the United States. His Op-Eds have appeared regularly in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and AlQuds Newspaper, among others. He has also appeared on national and international media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Al-Jazeera English, C-Span, and others.

Panel IV – Palestinian Strategy: Reform, Representation and a New Framework

Two decades after the start of the Oslo process there are more settlers and settlements in the West Bank today than ever before. Panelists will discuss whether the two-state solution is still viable, what challenges Palestinian reconciliation and representation present and evaluate Palestinian strategies for liberation.

Ms. Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and activist. She is currently the Freedman Teaching Fellow at the Temple Law School, and is the U.S.-based Legal Advocacy Coordinator for Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights. Most recently she served as Legal Counsel for a Congressional Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, chaired by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich. Her publications include “Litigating the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Politicization anthology,” and “BDS in the USA: 2001-2010,” in the Middle East Report. She is a Co-Editor of Jadaliyya.com.

Mr. Khaled Elgindy is a Fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He previously served as an advisor to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on permanent status negotiations with Israel from 2004-2009, and was a key participant in the Annapolis negotiations of 2008. He is the author of numerous publications on Arab-Israeli affairs, Palestinian politics, Egypt’s transition, and related subjects, including: “The Middle East Quartet: A Post-Mortem” (Brookings Institution, Feb. 2012); “Palestine Goes to the UN: Understanding the New Statehood Strategy,” Foreign Affairs (Sep./Oct. 2011); as well as “The Impact on the Peace Process: Peacemaker or Peacebreaker?” (with Salman Shaikh) and “The Palestinians: Between National Liberation and Political Legitimacy,” both in the recent Brookings volume, The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East (Nov. 2011).

Ms. Leila Hilal
is Director of the New America Foundation Middle East Task Force, which covers in-depth analysis and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa. From 2002 to 2007, she served as a legal adviser to the Palestinian Negotiations Department. She also advised the Palestinian Constitutional Committee during the drafting of the Basic Law. She has also consulted widely and published on conflict mediation policies in the Middle East, including for the Chatham House, International Development Research Center, International Center for Transitional Justice, Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, and the Euro-Med Human Rights Network.