In the month before the new U.S. administration enters office, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings brought together top Israeli and American policymakers, journalists, and members of the public and private sectors, as well as leaders from Britain and Turkey to discuss the most critical issues in the Middle East.
This year’s Saban Forum, “Strategic Choices: Challenges for the Next U.S. and Israeli Governments,” came at a unique juncture in American and Israeli politics, with both countries welcoming new leadership in the coming months. At the same time, many of the longstanding challenges in the Middle East remain: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear material, a standstill in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the popularity of extremist groups throughout the region. The incoming American President and the Israeli Prime Minister will each have to implement quickly a new strategic framework that not only addresses these challenges, but that capitalizes on some bright spots — progress in Iraq and the indirect peace talks between representatives from Israel and Syria.
The program of the Forum began on Friday, December 5, 2008 with a keynote address by President George W. Bush and remarks by Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Shaul Mofaz. The Forum continued on Saturday with discussion sessions on Iran, events in South Asia, and the global economic crisis, and included remarks by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. The Forum closed on Sunday with discussion sessions on the Middle East peace process and remarks by former-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former-President William J. Clinton.
In attendance at the Forum were Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former National Security Advisor Samuel Berger, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad, Ambassador and Deputy Undersecretary for Bilateral Political Affairs for Turkey Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Ambassador to the United States for Israel Sallai Meridor, Director of Military Intelligence for Israel Amos Yadlin, Minister of Education for Israel Yuli Tamir, and several Members of Congress and Members of the Knesset.