Does the Obama administration have a Middle East strategy, and if so, what are its parameters and goals? Ambassador Edward Djerejian will give an introduction to the Middle East viewed from Washington, DC, with particular emphasis on Israel-Palestine, Egypt and Syria.

Earlier this year, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the two-state solution could be dead within two years. Apparently, Secretary Kerry decided that so should not be the case, making the solving of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict his top priority, and traveling six times to the Middle East in order to restart peace negotiations between the two belligerent parties. On 29 July, direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians were resumed in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, the Middle East continues to be haunted by unrest and violent conflicts. An ever ongoing civil war in Syria seems to have no limits, and the great powers do not manage to agree on any means to stop the bloodshed. Neighboring Lebanon is increasingly dragged into the conflict and might as a result easily be torn apart. In Egypt, for weeks, huge and violent demonstrations, with many Egyptians killed and wounded, take place between the supporters of the removed President Mursi and the opposition, supported by the military.

Research Professor Hilde Henriksen Waage will act as commentator, and PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken will chair the event.Further reading: Re-engaging the Israelis and the Palestinians: Why an American Role in Initiating Israeli - Palestinian Negotiations is Necessary and How it can be Accomplished (Baker Institute 2013)

The Honorable Edward P. Djerejian served in the U.S. Foreign Service for eight presidents, from John F. Kennedy to William J. Clinton (1962-1994). Prior to his nomination by President Clinton as U.S. ambassador to Israel (1993-1994), he was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in both the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations (1991-1993). He was the U.S. ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic (1988-1991). He also served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and deputy press secretary for foreign affairs in the White House (1985-1986). After his retirement from government service in 1994, Djerejian became the founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. His book “Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East” was published by Simon & Schuster Threshold Editions in September 2008; the paperback edition was released in August 2009. He has been awarded the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Honor Award and numerous other honors, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Anti-Defamation League’s Moral Statesman Award. He is also a recipient of the Association of Rice Alumni’s Gold Medal, the group’s most prestigious award, for his service to Rice University. In 2011, Djerejian was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and named to the board of trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In 2013, Djerejian was elected independent chairman of the board of directors of Occidental Petroleum Corporation.