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

The Collapsing Foundation for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The Collapsing Foundation for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Monday, September 14, 2020

By: Ambassador Hesham Youssef

The diplomatic agreements being signed this week among the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel present formidable challenges to the long-standing paradigm for peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are yet to provide a viable substitute. While final contours of the agreements remain to unfold, their approach undermines the paradigm of providing an incentive for Israel to accept Palestinian self-determination as part of normalized relations with its Arab neighbors. With the Israeli-Palestinian divide wider now than any time since 1967, the erosion of these cornerstones for peacemaking is a precursor for an eventual new crisis.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

After UAE Deal, How Can Arab States Impact Israeli-Palestinian Peace?

After UAE Deal, How Can Arab States Impact Israeli-Palestinian Peace?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

By: Claire Harrison; Robert Barron

For decades, many Arab states were united in their hostility toward Israel and support for the Palestinian cause, even though in some cases that backing was simply rhetorical. In recent years, however, Israel and some Arab countries have engaged in a quiet rapprochement, spurred by common concerns over Iran’s influence in the region, among other things. The August 13 announcement of the “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the UAE was the most public and dramatic demonstration of these shifting regional dynamics. But what does this mean for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of the region in finding a resolution?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Robert Barron on the Abraham Accord

Robert Barron on the Abraham Accord

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

By: Robert Barron

While a break from longstanding precedent, USIP’s Robert Barron says that normalization between Israel and the UAE was “perhaps a long time coming … [and] it definitely represents an upcoming generation of leadership in the Gulf.” Meanwhile, questions over Israel’s annexation plans continue to linger.

Type: Podcast

Peace Processes

What Do Normalized Israel-UAE Relations Mean for the Region?

What Do Normalized Israel-UAE Relations Mean for the Region?

Friday, August 14, 2020

By: Robert Barron

On August 13, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations, in exchange for Israel suspending announced plans to annex large areas of the Palestinian territories. Dubbed the “Abraham Accords,” this agreement between Israel and the UAE—if fully implemented—would be the first Arab-Israeli reconciliation of its kind since the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, and stands to prevent, at least temporarily, Israeli-Palestinian and even broader regional deterioration that could have ensued in the wake of Israeli unilateral annexation. USIP’s Robert Barron looks at how the agreement came to fruition, what the United States’ role was, and what this means for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israel’s relations with the Arab world at large.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

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