For 70 years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected the Middle East landscape. A comprehensive diplomatic solution has evaded international efforts, leaving some disillusioned about the prospect of peace. Large-scale violence ebbs and flows, leaving communities insecure and enabling the conflict to persist as a rallying tool for extremist actors, thereby demanding continued U.S. and international attention. 

Despite this short-term outlook, progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians remains possible. An established Israeli and Palestinian civil society ecosystem works to advance prospects for a just and lasting peace, and regional geopolitical shifts may offer new openings to forge progress toward Israeli-Palestinian and broader regional conflict resolution.

USIP’S WORK

For three decades, the U.S. Institute of Peace has worked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Arab-Israeli relations. Through dialogue, analysis, and joint action at the grassroots and policy levels, USIP works to strengthen diplomatic peacemaking efforts, enhance community security for Israelis and Palestinians, empower Palestinian and Israeli civil society actors to build trust within and between their societies, and build institutional capabilities that prepare the ground for a just, peaceful, and sustainable solution to the conflict.

USIP has also supported over 200 grantees and more than two dozen fellows to conduct innovative work on the conflict. Recent work includes:

Convening Experts and Informing Policy

USIP convenes American, Israeli, Palestinian, and international experts to jointly develop analysis and actionable recommendations to inform the policy community. This work builds on two decades of peacebuilding research and analysis, including:

  • The Study Group on Arab-Israeli Peacemaking, which since 2008 has developed a set of best practices for American diplomacy, has produced two publications: “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace” and “The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace 1989–2011,” and is developing a third volume of lessons learned from American efforts to bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace.
  • The initiative on Changing Regional Dynamics and Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, in partnership with the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, convenes American and international experts to evaluate Israel’s evolving regional relations and generate recommendations for leveraging the current context to prevent deterioration and promote progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • The bipartisan Senior Working Group on Middle East Peace—co-chaired by former National Security Advisors Stephen Hadley and Samuel Berger—provided ongoing policy advice to U.S. administrations between 2009 and 2014.

Enhancing Community Security and Institutional Capacity

Through ongoing partnerships with local leaders, U.S. government representatives, and the international community, the Institute works to improve conditions on the ground for Palestinians and Israelis.

For example, in partnership with the Office of the Quartet, USIP mapped police movement and community access realities in the West Bank, enabling the most extensive expansion of Palestinian police movement and Palestinian communities’ access to their own policing services in 15 years.

graphic on middle east quartet

Leveraging its expertise, the Institute works closely with senior Palestinian and Israeli security authorities and the U.S. security coordinator to ensure coordination that bolsters safety and security for Palestinians and Israelis, enhances prospects for developing the Palestinian economy, and builds confidence and trust between both sides to foster diplomatic progress.

Fostering Religious and Interreligious Peacebuilding Engagement

Faith leaders can be crucial to diplomatic processes by using their influence to promote peace. But too often these religious voices have been excluded from Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic and grassroots efforts.

USIP is working to make the peacebuilding process more inclusive and effective by supporting local partners who facilitate dialogue, problem solving, and joint action among Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders. The Institute funds and guides work that encourages faith leader cooperation to bridge divides, mitigate violence, and provide a model for collaboration that protects holy sites and their visitors.

Bridging Divides, Promoting Youth Engagement

USIP works to strengthen the capacity of Israeli and Palestinian youth to build trust across divided communities and promote a culture of peace and nonviolent action within and between their communities. Through grants and trainings, the Institute provides Israeli and Palestinian youth with the resources and skills to engage in constructive dialogue, develop leadership skills, identify shared challenges, and design and implement joint action projects that prepare the grounds for peace.

Related Publications

Jordan Sees Danger in Trump’s Middle East ‘Vision’

Jordan Sees Danger in Trump’s Middle East ‘Vision’

Monday, May 18, 2020

By: Ambassador Hesham Youssef

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has long been a cornerstone of Middle East stability, wielding significant political and strategic influence in the region. As a small country with a weak economy bordered by Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories, adroit diplomacy is one of its key national resources. Now, Jordan faces a fresh diplomatic challenge: the potential impact of President Trump’s plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its strategic interests and very future. In the months ahead, Jordan—a crucial partner to the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians—faces a critical juncture in its relations with both the U.S. and Israel coupled with unprecedented internal challenges.

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U.S., Israel and Palestinians Tie Knot of Self-Delusion

U.S., Israel and Palestinians Tie Knot of Self-Delusion

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

By: Ambassador Hesham Youssef

Diplomats, politicians and analysts have invoked a range of obstacles over the years to explain why Israelis and Palestinians can’t make peace: The time is not ripe; there is no partner; there isn’t enough pressure on one party or the other; one side is willing but unable to make concessions, the other is able but unwilling. Now, as the world focuses on the coronavirus pandemic and its economic repercussions, we can add another, more inclusive explanation: Israeli, Palestinian, and American leaders have all embraced self-delusion on the road to pyrrhic victory.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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 Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on Israel’s Political Turmoil and the Coronavirus Crisis

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on Israel’s Political Turmoil and the Coronavirus Crisis

Thursday, April 9, 2020

By: Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

After three elections, Israel’s political crisis is reportedly coming to an end. Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen explains that the focus has now shifted to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying, “What you do often see in the face of these immediate crises is a lot of banding together and cooperation … the question is how long it holds afterwards.”

Type: Podcast

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In Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians Face a Common Foe in Coronavirus

In Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians Face a Common Foe in Coronavirus

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

By: Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen; Robert Barron

On March 22, authorities in Gaza affirmed the inevitable: the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip. Gazan officials reported that the two men were immediately quarantined upon entry via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with the enclave and have remained there, along with all those who had been in contact with them. Yet, since then, the number of confirmed cases has jumped to 10, and the question of how long a further spread of the virus into Gaza can be contained weighs heavily for this densely populated territory, long beleaguered by wars and severe deficiencies in its healthcare infrastructure.

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