The Crown Center for Middle East studies hosted a two-day conference Wednesday and Thursday that featured experts and leaders from the United States, Israel, Egypt and the West Bank to speak on the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in a conference titled "Israel and the Palestinians: The Road Ahead."
Students, professors and alumni gathered to hear scholars-including H.E. Nabil Fahmy, the Ambassador of Egypt to the U.S. and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom from the U.S. Institute of Peace-address the concerns and aspirations of the Israeli, Palestinian and American governments as the peace process progresses.
"The focus of the conference is to explore where Israelis and Palestinians may go after the implementation of Israeli disengagement of Gaza and the West Bank," Crown Director Shai Feldman said.
Held in the Lemberg Academic Center, lecturers addressed the development of the conflict and the future of regional peace, following Israel's unilateral disengagement this summer.
Sessions touched upon the future of Israel and Palestinian relations, the economic effects of the disengagement, as well as the regional environment of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq.
Yair Hirschfeld of the Economic Cooperation Foundation in Tel Aviv, who spoke at the Crown Center's inaugural conference last April, addressed the successes and failures of the Oslo Process, which was a part of the peace negotiations that took place in the early 1990s.
"There was one decisive success of the Oslo Process, which was progress towards a two-state compromise solution," Hirschfeld said.
Hirschfeld also spoke about what can be learned from the failure of Oslo.
"There was no understanding of what the deal would be," he said. "The leadership had no public legitimacy. The opposition that came after Oslo would have been much smaller if effective legitimacy had been built before."
The final session of the conference connected the conflict to the United States, as Jeremy Pressman '91, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, explained the role of the U.S. as an intermediary in the conflict.
"The United States is serving as a pharmacist to deliver the political Viagra," Pressman said. "It boils down to a situation of leadership."
Several students expressed interest in what the speakers had to say.
"I wasn't thinking of coming to the conference because I lived there [in Israel] for six months," Logan Hepner '06 said. "But I was amazed that there were intellectuals from both sides who were able to sit down and formally discuss issues that others have been ranting and raving about."
Noa Balf '09, a native of Israel said, "I find it very interesting ... I usually don't get to see Palestinian points of view."
The conference closed on Thursday with a concert by the Yuval Ron Ensemble in the Shapiro Campus Center.
"This is only the beginning of a strong cooperation between the Crown Center and the rest of the Brandeis Community," Feldman said.