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tv   Diplomats Discuss Israeli- Palestinian Conflict  CSPAN  July 13, 2021 5:00am-6:41am EDT

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wilson center. >> good morning, everyone.
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i am the director of the middle east program here at the wilson center. welcome to our event this morning, the gaza cease-fire, what's next? we have a distinguished panel this morning to discuss the latest developments on the israeli-palestinian arena and the biden policy, particularly after the cease-fire that followed violence that took the lives of more than 200 palestinians, including 66 children. we are glad to welcome the president and ceo of the wilson center to introduce our panel. we also welcome acting assistant secretary joey hood and the ambassador of egypt to the united states to discuss egypt's role in brokering the negotiation as well as a member
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of the washington institute to discuss his views after his most recent trip to israel and the west bank. and then ambassador james jeffrey will discussed the strategic implications of the conflict. >> thank you, marissa. welcome to the wilson center. i am mark green and i have the honor of leading our remarkable team of scholars and analysts. congress chartered the wilson center five decades ago to strengthen the relation between the world of learning and the world of public affairs. in other words, we seek to discern lessons of foreign policy. and offer them up to policymakers, analysts, and influencers. nowhere is that mission more important or more challenging than in and around gazan -- gaza regarding one of the
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world's most persistent conflict between israelis and palestinians. on may 10, we saw in the most graphic of ways, and escalation of confrontations involving her -- involving the israelis, palestinians and police in jerusalem from peaceful protests to violent protests, to rocket fire and air strikes, from the use of rocks to the use of incendiary balloons and drones. violence took a staggering toll, many dead on both sides with an estimated half $1 billion in damage. as we all know, there are few places in the world where violence can accelerate and escalate more ugly than here. there are a few places where ideologies are more parted than right here. hamas was designated a foreign terroristic organization nearly a quarter-century century ago and still refuses to recognize
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the state of israel. thankfully on may 21, 11 days after the fighting began, a cease-fire was secured and the violence came to an end. there is no doubt that egypt played a pivotal role in the mediation and communication that has helped make the cease-fire possible. we all desperately hope the settlement is permanent or at least lasting but we all fear it could be fleeting. in other words, the future of the region remains uncertain and so often unsettled. while many of us have disagreements with the government of egypt on several fronts, on matters of human rights and civil rights for example, we also must acknowledge the role that egypt continues to play, trying to help strengthen and broaden the cease-fire. as i said when i began, the wilson center's mission is to discern key lessons and try to bring them forward for key players and key decision points. nowhere are these lessons more important or more urgent or more complex than this troubled land. and so, we ask what's next. the last major battle between israel and hamas was in 2014 so what made this time different? today, we have a truly
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remarkable group of government officials and experts who can help us explore these questions and more. we will hear from egypt's ambassador to the u.s. to discuss his country's unique role in the ongoing conflict and recent peace negotiations. mr. ambassador, thank you for joining us at the wilson center. we will be joined by the state department acting assistant secretary for near east affairs, mr. joey hood, who will give us an overview of the u.s. government's role during these difficult days and as we look ahead. we will hear from david mikofsky director of the project on arab-israeli relations at the washington institute for near east policy, who will tie these two countries together and connect them to the broader international and historical context. finally, we will hear from wilson center's own ambassador jim jeffries, chair of the
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middle east program. marissa, back to you to get this truly intriguing conversation underway. >> thank you very much, ambassador green, for your opening remarks. before i pass the floor over, i would like to remind everyone that at any time during the webcast, you may submit a question by tagging @wilson centerwp or you can use wilson >> thank you. it is a pleasure to be here with all of you today. it's quite an honor for me and it's good to see you all again. i'm not planning on making big news today. i think i will give you a basic
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idea of what the administration's approach was which i don't think will be a lot of news to you but maybe to some of the viewers here, it will be worthwhile. basically, stop the dying, stabilize the situation, get humanitarian assistance in, and then look for ways we can actually start putting in place the conditions and parameters to be able to start talking about a two state solution again. right now, the prospect seems pretty far away. when you look at this unconditional mutual cease-fire between israel and the militants based in gaza, we think it was a function of the intensive but quiet diplomacy of the united states and our partners in the earliest hours of the conflict. we are grateful to our regional
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partners, especially president sisi and the senior egyptian officials who played a critical role in all of this. it was a quiet one. the king of jordan, the emir of qatar played important roles in those 11 days. from the beginning, president biden was focused intensely on ending the conflict as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible. sadly, we know from past experience, that every day the conflict continues, more innocent lives will be lost. we deplore each one of those innocent deaths. we also knew the diplomacy by cash that diplomacy by -- we also knew that diplomacy by twitter was not likely to achieve results, especially in that short timeframe. that's why we engaged in dozens of private calls and consultations from the secretary, the president to myself, the deputy assistant secretary who was out in the region.
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we did this in person, by phone, and out in the region. we talked to a lot of our regional counterparts along the way. we faced a lot of pressure to change our strategy along the way. but we kept our eyes on the goal of ending the conflict as soon as possible. every day the conflict went on, the bloodshed was heartbreaking, but we in concert with their partners were able to levy a cease-fire 11 days thanks to the hard work our entire national security team here in washington, our partners in the region and their colleagues in jerusalem. i think it all speaks to the utility of this approach. there is a lot of important work still ahead to avoid future flashpoints and help rebuild and then address underlying causes that led to this crisis, as i talked about in the beginning. just as we were focused in bringing about a cease-fire, we will continue to put a great deal of thought into the
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longer-term as well. the cease-fire is mostly held but everyone knows the situation remains fragile. palestinian militants are launching incendiary balloons and airborne explosive devices from the gaza strip, israel is responding with airstrikes against hamas sites. fortunately, no one at either site has been injured so far but if it continues, it's a matter of time. we want to reduce the likelihood that this level of conflict happens again. that's why we think it's essential to stabilize gaza through a humanitarian response with partners from the united nations, egypt, qatar and other partners. we are committed to working with all of them to provide that assistance and martial other international support as we can for recovery efforts. we will support that recovery and partnership with israel and the palestinian authority in a
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way that benefits palestinians directly but does not benefit hamas. we are working for the various actors to ensure funding goes to gaza through transparent, legitimate channels and if you've ever seen the vetting procedures we and our partners put in place, is like a 60 page memo i have to sign off on every year. let me tell you, it is intensive. through all of that, we are providing more than 360 million dollars in assistance to the palestinians. that's $38 million $38 million in new assistance for humanitarian efforts in both gaza and the west bank. of that 38 million, $33 million is going to support the operations in those locations. $5.5 million will go to other humanitarian partners. we are working with congress to ensure these resources are available as soon as possible. and that assistance will provide emergency shelter, food, relief items, health care, mental health and psychosocial support for those who experience trauma.
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as i said, we will be doing this through trusted, vetted independent partners who distribute directly to the people in need, not through hamas. throughout all of this, we are committed to strengthening our engagement with the palestinian authority and the palestinian people so that we can work with them to achieve a democratic and viable state that upholds the rule of law, promotes freedom of expression and supports human rights. in recent days, we have seen with that's more important. president biden has been crystal clear in saying, he believes palestinians and israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy. the state department, including this bureau, is entirely organized around this vision. to that end, we are strongly encouraging both palestinians and israelis to avoid unilateral
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actions including settlement activity, annexation of west bank territory, and the demolition of palestinian homes. as well as incitement to violence and providing compensation for individuals and prison tracks of terrorism. as we have stated many times, we firmly oppose the eviction of people from homes they have lived in generations. those types of actions exacerbate tensions and make it -- and make a two state solution more difficult to achieve. we will focus our efforts on affirmative and practical approach that encourages constructive, positive steps that help keep the possibility of a negotiated two state solution alive. equally important, it just improves the lives of palestinian people and israeli people in tangible ways. we need to lift up palestinian lives so they can enjoy the same level of prosperity as israel where gdp per capita is no
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higher than france or japan while gdp per capita in gaza in the west valley -- in the west bank is only a few thousand dollars per year. we will reaffirm our commitment to the status quo. we hope to see a jerusalem that respects all of this diversity and ensures everyone has equal opportunity to live, worship, build and thrive in that city. with that, i will turn the floor back over to you and to our other guests. >> thank you very much for your remarks this morning and we will get back to you with questions, thank you. i would like to now address the ambassador of egypt. as ambassador greene mentioned, egypt has played a key role in brokering the cease-fire between
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hamas and israel last month. your country continues to communicate with the hamas leaders and also is the first country to have signed a peace treaty with israel. tell us more about egypt's role. how did these talks evolve and what are the main features of this cease fire, particularly moving forward as the situation remains quite fragile. >> thank you, marissa, thank you ambassador greene, ambassador hood, ambassador jeffries, and also let me welcome david makovsky as well. basically, let me start by saying that historically, i don't need to enter into history.
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history is known to all of us and we all know who are the pioneers of peace in our parts of the world. we know what egypt has done during the sadat years. but let me emphasize something. we had in egypt to withstand a huge backlash when we have opted for the option of peace. that was within the arab circle, of course within the arab world and islamic world and other organizations whereby egypt has to either stand its ground firmly or subside and take the heat. we have stood our ground and as we stood our ground, we have been able to transform mindsets. wherever we are today when it comes to the whole depiction of the region is because of that
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cornerstone, egypt standing strong in full conviction of peace and the need to work with large and's -- work to enlarge and expand on the peace option. we have done that and slowly but surely, we have seen the madrid peace conference happen, we have seen the oslo accords, we have seen the peace treaty with jordan and, just lately, we have seen the other arab countries and israel come together in terms of the abraham accords. this is just a backdrop. ever since the split between the west bank and gaza in 2007-2008, we had to endure a number of escalations. but not just sit there and watch but actually to have an important cardinal, pivotal role in terms of d escalating and
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-- de-escalating end bringing back calm. there is a cumulative experience that egypt was able to accumulate. there was just another round of confrontation between israel and gaza and that took place for a continuation of 11 days. until we managed to broker a peace. operation jerusalem so the palestinian name or the guardians of the walls, the israeli name, was significantly different from the previous three rounds. that was due to a number of factors. basically, an entangled political scene not only in israel were in palestine but throughout the region. let me quickly mention here that in israel, it was struggling to
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form a coalition government and israeli confrontations between palestinians living in east jerusalem and is really sick forces -- and israeli forces and of course convictions and civil -- and of course house convictions inside a number of cities within israel of a significant majority. that's the situation that prevails in israel. in palestine, let me just say that the first round of parliamentary elections were announced by the president but were canceled later on in israel -- when israel had refused to allow balloting in east jerusalem. settlor violence in the occupied west bank has risen markedly in recent months since 2021, and
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the palestinian economic outlook also remains precarious and subject to numerous political security risks upping the level of frustration and the people in gaza remain besieged and under a dire economic and humanitarian circumstance. the region at large and relevant international players, let me say that several bases have hit the middle east from syria to libya, iraq and yemen, putting additional burdens on their nations. messages from the u.s., some had interpreted in different ways. people have seen a u.s. that is probably more prone or bound to
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have the middle east subside in its policy and priority. others see it differently. in europe, europe has shown some kind of confusion when it comes to how to advance. you have also seen a quartet that has not been of much help in recent years. of course, covid-19 with its repercussions, these were extremely overwhelming but also had an impact on abilities of those players who had put all their efforts into bringing about a cease-fire to succeed. nevertheless, we have managed to do that in 11 days. let me just say that in the midst of all this, the efforts of egypt have been relentless. the cease-fire is part of what egypt sees as a holistic approach. after brokering the cease-fire, cairo moved in three parallel
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tracks. one is stabilizing the cease-fire, hosting israeli delegations with negotiating teams and both the palestinian authority and hamas in proximity talks to negotiate the terms and the requests of a prolonged cease-fire. such as economic and humanitarian arrangements including reconstruction. the humanitarian needs and the need to exploit resources in gaza. all these issues are still actually part of an ongoing effort that is exerted by egypt to sustain the cease-fire, to have the cease-fire hold and continue to hold. another track is the prisoner
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swap track which is also i'm -- also ongoing in these proximity talks and will continue. the other track which is parallel here is the intra-palestinian track, which is one that egypt has continuously, ever since the split happened in the west bank in gaza, a continuous effort exerted by egypt to bring about the palestinians together under one legitimate umbrella rule. these are three important components of what we are trying to do. revisiting the 2014 cease-fire agreement was also something that we wish to build on,
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meaning that we plan to change some of the rules, and some of the rules that have somehow depicted the game. ever since 2014. loopholes are there and we need to be able to be more stringent in whatever plans we have in terms of humanitarian assistance, and terms of reconstruction and rebuilding gaza and some of the practices need to change. amongst them is a practice we have seen in the past that basically saw cash flowing into gaza. that kind of arrangement we have had in the past needs to change for a much more responsible atmosphere to predict. -- to prevail. egypt's reconstruction efforts, quick reference that i can make at the end of my presentation,
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palestinians in gaza cannot pay the price and consequences of regular confrontations between hamas and israel. they are the overwhelming majority in gaza. the population in gaza is around 2,100,000. the overwhelming majority have no particular political affiliation. they need to be catered to in terms of their needs, their livelihood and this is part of what we see in egypt as dissuading a segment of the palestinian society in gaza and providing the light at the end of the title, dissuading them -- tunnel, and dissuading them from radicalization and extremist kind of approaches. this is undoubtedly a cardinal point that needs to be that -- to be at different occasions
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brought to the forefront a conversation. the confrontation left many palestinians in gaza homeless. the estimates are around 10,000. egypt pledge $500 million to start rebuilding and reconstructing in gaza. the difference is that there is no cash involved in whatever egypt has announced in terms of its efforts to reconstruct. but it is actually material we will be providing, and egyptian companies that will be at the forefront of these efforts in terms of reconstruction. egypt considers that all of these tracks are instrumental in terms of paving the way for the conditions necessary for direct negotiations.
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when the situation on the ground allows this, it is important, an integral part of the holistic approach. whatever we are doing in terms of the cease-fire, sustaining the cease-fire, rebuilding reconciliation, all this needs to cater to one direction which sees as the ultimate goal a direct negotiations resume and a peaceful process towards a peaceful outcome. this is what i can say at the beginning and i will stop here and follow the rest of the conversation. >> thank you very much. you described the context in which egypt plays in this important role, and it is not
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just, as you mentioned, about this particular cease-fire but it's linked to not just the is that she israeli arena but the arab, israeli arena and the larger geopolitics in the region as well. i would like to turn to david now. you have been in israel and the palestinian territory and you are an expert on the political domestic scene. we have seen a change in government, benjamin netanyahu is out. naftali bennett is now prime minister. how will these internal dynamics affect the implementation of the cease-fire which continues to be quite fragile? >> thank you for having me and good to see the other just in -- distinct -- distinguished members. it's good to be with all of you. thank you for organizing it and putting together. thank you very much.
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coming back from ramallah, i feel it's a very unstable situation on the round to begin -- ground to begin with. and then to get your point, the dumbest six situation in israel. -- the domestic situation in israel. the instability, it's unstable because perceptions of what happened in this conflict are not agreed upon basically. you have the leader of hamas who politically feels he is flying high as a kite. the palestinian leading pollster who i have been friendly with for over 30 years right after a , conflict says hamas wins and after three months, things settle back down. right now, he is feeling a sense of victory. the israelis feel they have achieved a lot of military successes, too. basically, their view is that we want the status quote. -- we want the status quo.
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the israeli view is they want the status quo minus hamas but not for gaza. how do you draw that distinction? that is something the ambassadors alluded to. a belief that you have to find a way to help palestine without helping hamas. that means going back to the formula. there was a cease-fire but since 2018, israel and hamas have had a kind of cease-fire. the contours have been like this, you stop firing rockets, no incendiary balloons in israel -- and israel will help facilitate $360 million per year that would go through the united nations for public works, money for poor people, fuel for the
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power plant in gaza, which would get closer to 24 hours. that was basically the last three years until may. what happened at that point is that hamas lost interest in the united nations. they said we want the money directly. they wanted to decide where the money goes. and sadly, it went to rockets and to a tunnel that was hundreds of kilometers around gaza. it's hard to understand, the opening of the gate in iran for -- near rafa. everyone wants humanitarian aid for gaza but the difference is that the money goes directly to
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hamas. at a certain point, the money went directly to hamas and they used it for nefarious purposes. some might say well, israel signed off at a certain point. i have heard conflicting views on that. but a sickly, the hamas view is we don't want the united nations, we want to take the money we want to decide where the money goes and that's certainly not the israeli view that is -- that has seen four rounds of rockets fired and then retaliation. i think it's an unstable situation, frankly. the qatar view of saying we will put out balloons and burn your fields. we will burn as much as we can until we get the money. we are holding israel responsible. these are the details you don't always read about in the newspaper but this is kind of what's going on in gaza. egypt has done a fantastic job i think on trying to be a mediator and i only have respect for cairo.
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but this issue of prisoners, it's not a level playing field. israel says they have two dead israeli soldiers and to people that have had, it shows disabled people across the border and hamas wants over 1000 people. that's what happened last time. they got one prisoner out over 1000 my think over 200 the people they released went back to practicing terror. the prisoner issue is also a big complication. to your question, marissa, on top of all of these objective differences, where does the domestic policy of israel play
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into this? the government has primarily members from the right, and this government has fewer members from the right, more from the left and also an arab party for the first time is a member of the coalition. it's an islamic party actually. it's a very diverse government. but they are also united saying help gaza but don't help hamas. can you thread the needle? ideally, it should be as ambassador hood said. it's what secretary of state blinken said after he visited ramallah. the question is, will hamas let them? what is clear is hamas said no, we won the war and you guys stay out and stay in the west bank and we will stay in gaza, are in charge and we have nothing to do with you. in theory, they said we let you into the plo but we don't have to make any concessions between israel and the palestinian authority. maybe then we will talk to you. all these reconciliations have
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been going on since 2007. since the mecca, the saudi brokerage, and again i think , egypt has done a fantastic effort to try to bring the palestinian movement together whether it's from hamas to the west bank to gaza. but since 2007, now 14 years later, it hasn't worked. that is hard. the final piece is what sort of negotiation is going to happen? the united states under democrats and republican administrations have tried to do what is called final status, go to the endgame, solve the whole dam conflict. that is what clinton at camp david and condoleezza rice, and
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under the obama administration, we had a team later this a team leader in the venn diagram doesn't extend. this should be over something that is attainable. i bring this up not to depressed people, but to say that a lot of the -- here are some objective problems. you have a new prime minister who is trying to keep this government together. his concept is consensus, apple pie and motherhood. let's not be divisive. let's look at that which didn't -- which unites. most israelis would want to see the palestinians having a better life, but they don't want hamas firing rockets at them. the question is, can they draw that distinction well? the opposition was saying you are weak and you will cave to hamas. i wouldn't be surprised, frankly, if there are those
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elements that want a second round, saying you are not going to get him to come down from his euphoria and a second round isn't going to happen. i don't think government wants a second round. i think some in the security services don't see a way out because they don't see the u.n. being able to fill that role. if somehow with the egyptian and american umbrella there was some way that would weigh in and say everything has to go through the united nations or the palestinian authority, either one and hamas has to join a technocratic government, palestinians with the pa, it might make a difference. you think well look, we made statements in washington and cairo and people know what we think.
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but i think that unless there is a concerted u.s. move and -- i am concerned that this impasse is just going to intensify because hamas will say where is the money. i don't want to hear the word united nations. i'm a bit concerned and i'm concerned that bennett, who only has six seats as prime minister, never happened in israeli history, that he will feel more pressure from the right and they will say to him the equivalent of what people said to john f. kennedy in 1961. i am not comparing him to kennedy, of course, or to olmert in 2006, they are testing you, hamas is testing you the way a new young president was tested in the united states, the way olmert was tested, you are being tested. i worry about what that would mean to the prospects of the second round. i think the only way out, marissa, is for the u.s. and egypt, the three relevant actors
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in this story to clear up and tell hamas there is no way out. you have to do this through the united nations and you have to become folded into the pa to be a technocratic government. meaning, it's not official hamas people at the table. i think there has to be a clear sense of policy direction. left on their own, i worry this will just get worse. it's a very unstable situation. i'm just being very candid in telling you why i am concerned. i feel like a skunk at a garden party. i wish i had better news. >> thank you so much. we will get back to you with a few questions. we will probably follow up on some of your points about proactive u.s. engagement as key to moving forward. i would like to turn to ambassador jeffrey to give us the geopolitical implications of what happened.
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many people in the region continue to see the core issue as the palestinian-israeli issue and perhaps no longer the arab-israeli issue. as we have seen in recent developments, there was the historic signing of the abraham accords. others see the region through the prism of iran, which the u.s. continues to feel as the number one challenge. how do you read the geopolitics, particularly in light of what happened in gaza two months ago? >> thanks for putting this together. greetings to all of my colleagues. it's good to see you again. i will make three very brief points because i can't begin to compete on the details of the cease-fire or the background to it as my three colleagues can. first of all, the role of
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regional geopolitics, particular iran. secondly, shifting arab-israeli relations and thirdly, the united states. we will start with the first on -- and apologies to joey hood. he has heard this from me many times. the role of iran and everything destabilizing in the region cannot be over emphasized. hamas recently thanked iran for its support, diplomatic and in terms of weapons systems after the last crisis. iran not only supports hamas, it also supports more radical extremist terrorist groups in gaza who are capable of blowing up cease-fires even when hamas does seem to be willing to play. it goes further than that.
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israeli leaders and people throughout the region stressed the danger of iranian rocket and missile programs. be they in southern lebanon or increasingly in syria, be they elsewhere. we have even seen them in iraq and yemen. striking targets throughout the region. israel, when it's engaging in any palestinian issue, particular a military issue with gaza, they have to keep one eye focused on iran because of the fear that it could be drawn into a conflict or its deterrence against such a conflict could be weakened depending on what it does on one front, it faces more serious problems on another. the barrage of hamas rockets challenged but did not overwhelm the iron dome and other israeli defense systems. dealing with rockets and missiles out of southern lebanon
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, out of syria, out of gaza, all at the same time that are enclosed proximate he. that is something israel -- in close proximity. that is something israel has to think about. the relative support of the arab states. we begin with egypt, jordan and qatar but also the arab states of the abraham accords. while they were unhappy as they should be with some of the things that israel is doing in jerusalem, they have basically stood by their new friend and partner on regional security, israel throughout this campaign. they did not take the side of hamas. that is a shift, not a major shift but a perceptible one from the situation during the 2006 lebanon war where i think most of you who know the history remember that arab states made noises in favor of israel vis-a-vis has below -- has below
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-- hezbolah. it is a different arab world. it is working with the international community, the u.n. and particularly the united states. they have made ever greater contributions to peace as we saw with egypt in this regional conflict. finally, with the united states, the u.s. administration like all administrations decides that since the priorities for the international agenda -- good luck. when asia's aircraft carriers are shipped out to the middle east outside of afghanistan, it is outside of joey hood's responsibilities in the middle east and the entire appomattox
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apparatus of the united states dropped most everything else to focus on the gaza cease-fire. this is the nature of the middle east that every administration has experienced. we can dream about doing things that are more important but the middle east is very hard to ignore. i think that is the lesson everyone has gotten. i will stop there. >> before i turned back to you, i just want to remind our viewers to submit their questions via twitter or email them to us. the important role of the united states, a proactive role, particularly to ensure that the
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cease-fire holds and that we are back to the negotiation table or back to talks at least but you also described a more minimal approach with a focus on the humanitarian assistance in gaza. there are very high expectations from other regional leaders. that will probably be very high on his agenda. i am moderating this discussion. this continues to be the number one issue for the country. what are you telling your original allies? particularly those that insist that the u.s. role in leading this remains integral to any progress moving forward? >> i think that our partners know very well how active we
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have all been on this but it is quiet, this is something new for the u.s. government, not just going back from the past administration but several administrations prior to that. the typical approach has been let's go for a nobel peace prize. let's try to get everything solved. it has not worked. this administration is trying to see if we can just make lives better for people and just stop the dying and make lives better for people whether they are israeli or palestinian? that will take a lot of work all on its own. you heard some of the challenges. they will not want to go back in without substantial assistance, without knowing that the israelis and the united states and the palestinian authorities are in on the approach. egypt has an ambitious program
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of a $5 million donation. there is no question they will be in plummeting that because this is something new. but we tried the same approach over and over and it did not work. i would not say this is a minimalist approach but a different approach. it is quiet. these consultations are happening every single day. i have been monitoring my email just as we have been talking about how the secretary is going to make a phone call to a key leader. he has a whole bevy of side meetings that he had last week with the regional counterpart. this issue was top of agenda. jeffrey was talking about how every administration like to try to pivot it -- pivot away from the middle east and focus on other priorities but you can't do that fully. the human race has somehow decided that the middle east is
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going to be really important and that has been true for thousands of years. we know that is true now and it is going to be true going forward in the future. we have to keep working on all of these issues. we will not see it as the big headlines -- the error of kissinger or some other administration but we will have people going into the region, making these phone calls, having these consultations between key leaders as we go along. we will see what we can do. if we can at least stop the dying and get humanitarian assistance flowing in a way that satisfies everyone and helps the palestinian people, that will be something good to start with. >> thank you. i want to stay on that very
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point. what egypt expects from the biden administration at this point. is it too early to say that the two state solution is no longer viable and that it will become more and more complicated to get there if we don't see more traction? >> thank you. let me quickly agree with both ambassadors. taking everything away from the middle east is not an option. i made a reference before that. the problems will continue to follow you wherever you are. number two, we have been very
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appreciative of the support of the biden administration. in terms of supporting the efforts. what we need to see is a continued role that is proactive. proactive in terms of -- i would probably add to the ambassador's point. it is important to secure humanitarian and reconstruction and the livelihood of people and to make life more prosperous but also, i will just add to that that we need to see the effort on the overall comp rancid nature of peace.
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whatever steps we take toward alleviating the suffering, attention to the humanitarian, attention to reconstruction should be using -- it should lead to direct negotiations. this is what i think the administration is cognizant of. the matter is timing. let me go back in time and say when has any timing been opportune? it is a decision you take, the policy issue that you have to consider and to move ahead.
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the -- once you feel you have been able to achieve the front that you have been working on. it is eroding the revival of importance, at least to the minds over here. my own mind and the people back home and throughout the region, i don't see how another sort of solution would be in the interests of either israel itself or the palestinians and their aspirations to statehood. meaning the one state. it does not cater to anyone's security. in accordance to resolutions and
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national legitimacy. also in terms of providing the necessary conditions to work toward the two state solution is extremely important. we all know the clinton administration was very close to reaching the true breakthrough but it did not happen. but in the aftermath of that, we had a number of understandings on land swaps. this is how you could always advance with the notion of two states. this will be the center of attention. whether it is jerusalem, refugees. that is why they are called
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finer status issues but the drive towards them, we should never lose sight of that. >> thank you. david, you mentioned earlier the important role of the united states but also working together with egypt and israel and moving toward something attainable but you did not talk about but that thing is. that basically describe the u.s. approach as one very much focused on bettering palestinian lives. are you hoping for more? >> i would like a bit more. i am glad that you got me on this. that is my favorite topic. i completely agree with him.
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i sometimes do sports analogies and it travels well in america. but if you can't hit the homerun, hit some singles and doubles or to put it in international sports, if you can't run the marathon, run the 5k race. first of all, i spoke to the new prime minister eight or nine times. he said most of the palestinians live in the a-plus b area. that might mean other foreign assistance, i don't know but take him at his word. this is what ambassador hood was saying about improving the economics.
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imagine you would have economic projects. the emirate have their problems with the u.k.. they told me if this was a private sector initiative, we would contribute. we will do our part. what about a private-sector effort to improve the a-plus b zone? what about giving the palestinian police more authority to show something is moving? i am a little nervous about saying get them negotiating.
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are we going to try to win the marathon? let's do some practical things. the a-plus b focus is not the endpoint. it is a way to get started. you might also want to bring in more workers from gaza. people who are fully vetted that don't become a security risk. that would be good for the gaza economy as well and would make them less liable for hamas. 85% of the israelis are on 8% of
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the land largely adjacent to those lines. imagine that you would say not adding any more people, 85% of the west bank, that would at least preserve the option for two states. my point is don't shut the door. you can't solve it all now. if there is one sentence i say that your member, between solving the conflict and managing the conflict and shrinking the conflict, i think you can shrink it, minimize the differences between the parties. you could bridge over a river, you can't bridge over an ocean
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if they did -- the differences are so wide. my fear is that if you don't do anything, you shut the door over time. stop the slide to the one state approach would be my approach. if you use the, ruddy template, --, roddy -- emirate template, maybe you can do a deal with the king on final status. i get that. imagine if you took partial status. the summer of 2020, there was all this annexation but then the emirates swooped in and the
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israelis could not agree if it is light or dark outside. 80% is a huge number. 55% would be a landslide. 80% say they prefer a peaceful resolution. what about if we think creatively? i am trying to broaden the abraham accords and show the israelis that you are going to have to do your part as well. that means you have to stop anything over the barrier. just the way it works with the emirates, the israelis said we prefer normalization to annexation. it won't solve every single problem but it will go a long distance in limiting this complex. it is not just between managing and solving it, is limiting the
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differences. i think this is the realm of the possible. singles and doubles or the 5k and the 10k race, i think this is in the realm of the doable. >> good to see you have traction. i will go back to investor jeffrey for feedback on what you heard so far. >> on this issue that i have followed intermittently for 20 years, the position that the biden administration is taking is wise. there is no real alternative to the two-state solution. we have general agreement on
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this panel for that. given the sensitivities involved , it is something that requires step-by-step work. i think david's idea of shrinking the conflict on the one hand and the near east bureau idea to do quite diplomacy as opposed to big, dramatic policy which gathers a lot of attention but also raises expectations are well aligned and also match well with what the ambassador has said. there is a real opportunity at this point because the region is changing. the relative role will not be as great as in the past. there are pretty scary
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alternative security dynamics out there. russia has its eye on the middle east and a much bigger role from it. we see this in syria and libya. that will encourage people to come to a lowest common denominator of what works in the region. we just heard about how the, roddy's managed to broker normalization over annexation. there will be more compromises if all of this architecture and less absolutist demands are flaunted publicly. merissa: i will turn to questions from the audience because we have quite a few that came in. can we expect more concerted
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long-term development support of ngos on the ground and will the biden administration support these groups? i assume we are talking about ngos and the palestinian territory, specifically gaza. mr. hood: thank you for your question. other than the u.n., send a significant part of our assistance through gaza and the west bank. as the funding gets released from congress and through the system, you will see more of that flowing toward the organizations. in our experience, that is what we found to be the most effective way of going around organizations like hamas and in some cases, the palestinian authority as well because of
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their inability to manage some of these resources. that is why we will be using these ngos. i am not sure what the person met by development work but right now, we are focusing primarily on humanitarian assistance. people have water, food and health care. then you can think about these types of projects that david was talking about. we are certainly working on them very quietly among other things that he mentioned and some other items as well. how can you take advantage of this new strategic situation that ambassador jeffrey described? you may have emirate or private-sector support for these water projects. these things were not possible to even dream about a couple of years ago and now they are much closer to reality.
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how can you think about beyond ngos but even governments working together? how do you manage this when you have 100 emirate tourists at the site and some palestinian youth start throwing some rocks at whoever. that will be a very difficult and different situation in what you have seen over the past decade. these are the sorts of things we need to be working through and that could provide those ways of making the conflict a little bit smaller as david mentioned. merissa: a question about what egypt can do to ease the transport and the delivery of
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needed supplies near the egyptian border. >> thank you. let me say that we have devoted personnel. what we have been able to put together in terms of assistance to alleviate the suffering in terms of reconstruction was in the amount i mentioned. it is not cash but actual projects on the ground being implement it and they have been designed as such for the purpose that we agreed on. we do to make sure the sources that we put are channeled
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through the proper means. this is part of what i had explained when it comes to the difference in the mechanism we are creating the -- creating today and the mechanism in 2014. an idea we are floating around is to create an international fund, a u.n. fund. that would have the ability to supervise these projects and alleviate the dire circumstances of palestinians living in gaza. i think this is an idea worthwhile in terms of how to advance it. i think it caters to the general feeling here in the u.s. that ambassador hood has mentioned. making sure that these efforts are concerted but also channeled
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well. we have always been receptive to the growing needs of the palestinians in gaza and we will continue to do so. let me take the opportunity to say that jeffrey had mentioned the regional efforts that are not necessarily benign interventions. we see chaos in all parts of the region, tibia, -- syria, lebanon and others. this is an idea i agree on. it needs our attention and focus .
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it needs to be center stage in our attention. i say this because of the following. if we have enough of the conflict -- we have had enough of the conflicts that have mired the middle east for too long. the only recipe to even all of these conflicts throughout the region is by tackling the core conflict in the region. we would be doing ourselves and the region good, we would be doing the well good in terms of really focusing on the elements that would pave the way toward that kind of direct negotiation we spoke about for the two-state solution to remain.
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we would see the easing of so many conflicts throughout the region if we are able to tackle that main conflict that fuels radicalization and extremists throughout the region. >> can i ask the ambassador a question? i have such huge spect for cairo -- respect for cairo. they feel that israel and egypt are on the same page, not to help hamas but gaza. in the macro, i find it to be strategically convergent but i was a bit troubled on my trip. there were another four or five palestinians.
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they all raised this gate. it did not open after the conflict. this has been going on for a few years. i wonder if there is some way -- if it was just humanitarian -- usually the buildings, this new bridge, this new crossing opened up in the last few years. i feel there is no synchronization on it and i am very puzzled by it. egypt was trying to improve things in this strategic convergence. it was not separate and eyes. i thought if it is ok to use this opportunity, having ejection representatives -- this is partly where the cement
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is coming from and things like that. i don't know. maybe you can solve this mystery for me because it is coming at a time of disrespect. >> thank you. let me make this point clear. you referred to the smuggling. let me say that the joint borders with gaza have been a huge headache to egypt in terms of it being detrimental to our own national security.
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back to these 13.5 kilometers. these are illegal and maybe some would consider legitimate in terms of things that catered to livelihoods. nevertheless, our point was that this should -- the measures that we have taken on the borders with gaza are only indicative to the amount of results that we have in order to shut these down. if we have been successful in doing so, there has to be away up ground, above ground to cater
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to the needs of the people. all i can assure you in this conversation is that nothing egypt does is not coordinated with either israel or the palestinian authority. i am sure we will have the opportunity to sit and chat in the near future and we can expand on this later on. thank you -- merissa: thank you. we have a few more questions. one coming in from maya from the washington institute. what steps are the u.s. and egypt willing to take if there continues to be increases in illegal settlements and demolitions in the occupied west bank? if no steps are being taken, what does this mean for the long-term peace process?
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>> i don't want to speculate on what might happen on this path. that is a dangerous path for a diplomat to go down. i will just restate our policy. we want to maintain this cease fire. we want to stabilize activities on all sides. that includes rockets and airstrikes, annexation of west bank territory, demolitions of palestinian homes and all of the rest. we believe those things exacerbate tensions. we have the belief that israel has the ability to defend themselves. if those rockets come, they can defend themselves, any nation
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would do that but we want to avoid that cycle of violence. no unilateral destabilizing actions on either side. that is the path we are going to take. if things happen as we go along, we will have to address them as we do. merissa: what ejection -- egyptian steps can be taken? >> let me just say that the two-state solution is beyond a viable option. anything in terms of expansion and settlements, anything that
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the roads -- erodes the peaceful outcome in general is something we will continue to call out. this does not preclude the fact that we have our strong ties and relations with the israelis. we are appreciative of the fact that -- of that in public and honest in private. merissa: david, this next question is from lena.
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what are the future roles of the gulf states? how do you see this role? particularly in the near to medium future? >> you mentioned that a plus b idea. getting the members of the abraham accords safe and the saudi's to say that you have your doubts about money going to government but we want a private sector initiative. ambassador hood is going to appoint someone from the american private sector who is going to focus on where most of the palestinians live. maybe it will be industrial zones or other things. i think it can be security component as well.
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that gives them more room to be more dominant. it is 40% of the west bank but if you could show that people's lives are getting better and that there is an actual coordinator and nobody is saying that the money is going to hamas, it is a private sector initiative. i heard we are in, we will join it. i would like to see that. i think you might be able to do some industrial zones near the gaza border, maybe on the israeli side. there is no one hundred percent guarantee. i think this would give people a stake in success.
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i think that is possible. i think we should just be clear. i would even think about this. i heard a senior israeli talk to a senior golf official. maybe there are things you can help. i don't think the burden should fall on egypt. >> have you heard in your recent trip about traction from the palestinians that this is something they would like to see? >> i was told that hamas that he
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is angry not about the abraham accords, he does not want to take your money. we are not asking him to take, roddy money. we are asking them to admit that there is a consortium of gulf states. i find it hard to believe that he would stop. i know we are running out of time a bit but i do think what we have to stress in general is the succession in this whole contest. he needs to maximize his
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political leverage. i think that is the meta-story here. the question is if they want in, we are not trying to block them. what is the price to joining this club? you have to accept the agreements with israel. that means a diplomatic concession. we don't want to make any concessions. we want it all because we feel we want it. we want to be best positioned with the public and with palestinian institutions on the eve of succession. if we don't see that wider story of succession as looming, i think we are missing a basic -- big piece of the picture. merissa: this would be a topic
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for another panel discussion, highlighting what is happening in the palestinian territories vis-a-vis the future of palestinian leadership. we have a few more questions. i will try to put them altogether. i will ask jeffrey to step in here. what role did iran play between -- in the conflict between hamas and israel? if i may add to this, this recent infighting between hamas and israel, it definitely helped hamas rise again and david mentioned pulling changes months
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into wars but has this elevated iran's grip on that area? ambassador hood: good question. it gets to iran's exploitation and its regional strategy. this is very much my personal view, not something that can be totally verified. iran does not want to destroy israel other than as a practical problem. in part because iran knows that it cannot destroy israel. israel has tremendous military capabilities. iran is very aware of that.
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the people who are really running iran are pretty aware of the realities in the region. what they have seen for many years is as the arab world and investors in iran describes the step-by-step process, move closer to israel and the arab israeli conflict was replaced by a palestinian israeli situation or issue. i ran i tried -- iran tried to achieve some sort of my taking a hard-line position against israel. the interesting thing is that while israel is faced with this continued hard-line decision, it is seeing less and less
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residents throughout the rest of the region. that is the point the abraham accords have held solid. egypt is at the top of the list and then jordan. this raises the question of just how valid that iranian strategy is. iran will continue to pursue it because they see them as a key coalition -- part of a coalition of states that is trying to detain iran. i would not say that iran has benefited significant, not as much as hamas did from the conflict. not at all like in 2006.
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merissa: thank you. we have lots of other questions. i apologize that we did not get to all of them but i hope this will be the first of many discussions on this important issue. my ask to all of you is to share one take away from this discussion that you think might help the process move forward. in >> it -- >> it sounds to me like there is a lot of convergence in ideas here. just to reiterate what the administration is going after her.
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-- here. to aid the palestinians in a way that follows the law and helps people directly and not hamas. we will be doing that with our important partners like egypt and qatar. with them and others, we will try to set the conditions to return to real discussions about us to -- a two state solution to diplomacy. if we can make progress on all of those things, i think that will help us set the table once again for those talks to be actually fruitful. meanwhile, we will keep our eye on iran. they are problematic here. their assistance has not been militarily decisive but over time, it could be increasingly so. at the same time, we are watching the iranian strategy backfire on itself as it pushes
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the israel and gulf states closer together. i don't think that will be a winning solution for the armenians over time but we will continue to keep our eye on it and press back on them anywhere we can along with those regional partners and allies like egypt. >> thank you very much. ambassador hood: let me just say that catering to the needs, we need to show the -- ambassador zahran: thank you very much. we need to see them -- see that
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kind of hope to be able to think about the better sense of goodness as opposed to extremists and radicalization's. we need to continue to work on the holistic approach in terms of factoring in the talks whenever they are timely. we need to see proactive engagement. we need to also focus on regional behaviors. it is not confined to iran. they should come into play and they should be the overall package of the region.
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this is the need to support the palestinian authority. we should not hold our support contingent to theories of secession -- succession. he is the real powerhouse behind the oslo accord. we need to see them enabled. we need to show the palestinian people that there is this kind of hope for us to be able to prevail. this was a very interesting discussion. >> thank you very much.
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david? david: thank you for organizing this. i thought there was a great sense of convergence between us all. the need to see the cease fire being stabilized and also to have a target. i think we could do what is possible to shrink the conflict. what is most urgent is to make sure that the cease fire does not unravel. it worked the last three years and now i worry that the perception, if left to their own devices, i think it could lead to a second round of violence. i hope there is a real effort by
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the united states and egypt to ensure that hamas has no way out. i hope that the pa does have a greater role. i think there is a risk for the pa if they don't get more proactive. that is what they bring to the table. turkey is problematic. if you say that we are not going to let you guys just let this thing unravel into a second round, we are going to ensure their are some clear procedures,
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clears constructs because the money goes through the united nation. it is not going directly to hamas. and the issue of being within a pa framework. these are the concessions you will need to make. without this supervision of the united states and others, i am afraid that these inconclusive talks will not stagnate. it will descend into another round of violence. i think that would be tragic. merissa: i hope you're wrong. ambassador jeffrey, last words. ambassador jeffrey: i remain optimistic. i think we heard realistic ways forward. i think the tenor of the international community and the states andy -- and the latest
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burst of violence has been notably different than what we have seen in other ones related to israel, the palestinians, lebanon and other competitors in the region. the consensus on how to go forward in terms of general terms -- the general consensus on how to move forward is stronger than we have seen in a long time. i think that is a basis on which we can all build. thank you, merissa. merissa: thank you all very much for your time today. thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very important topic.
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more discussions on this will be planned for the next few months. we hope that you will tune in and thank you for listening.
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