Saban Forum 2017: ‘America First’ and the Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, several U.S. senators, Israeli cabinet ministers, generals, and others have joined the 2017 Saban Forum, a U.S.-Israeli dialogue hosted by the Brookings Institution, now in its 14th year. Entitled “‘America First’ and the Middle East,” the Saban Forum took place between Friday, December 1, and Sunday, December 3 in Washington, D.C.

Opening gala featured Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, and Brookings president and retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general John R. Allen. Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, addressed the Forum on Sunday in a special panel with chairman of the Saban Forum, Haim Saban.

“Leaders around the world are still struggling to understand what ‘America First’ means to them, and with the focus the Trump administration has put on the prospect of Middle East peace, the Forum will once again serve as a bedrock for mutual understanding between the United States and Israel, and for leaders throughout the region,” said Haim Saban, Brookings trustee and chairman of the Saban Forum. “The Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings has convened an illustrious and thoughtful group of people intent on focusing on what is important to our countries, not on the latest tweet.”

“For 14 years, the Saban Forum has continued to serve as a unique venue for candid exchanges that can generate new ideas and constructive engagements about U.S.-Israel relations and Middle East strategic issues.” said Brookings Executive Vice President Martin Indyk.

As in past years, the 14th annual Saban Forum addressed these important issues via candid closed-door dialogue between leading American and Israeli figures from government, business, the media, and civil society. This year’s sessions focused on the rise of new regional and global powers in the Middle East, like Iran and Russia; new partnerships of interests, such as between Saudi Arabia and Israel; and on the effect of all these on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Other issues included the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the changing landscape of the media and disinformation around the world, and the influence of institutions such as the judiciary and the military on future prospects for peace.

Israeli delegates from across the political spectrum attended the Forum included: Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked; Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi; Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Chair of the Labor Party Avi Gabbay; Chair of Meretz Zehava Galon; Members of Knesset Stav Shaffir (the Zionist Union) and Yoav Kisch (Likud); Member of the Joint List Ahmad Tibi; Let. Gen. (Ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi, former chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces; and many more former and current Israeli officials.

Senior representatives of all three branches of the U.S. government have participated, including Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Stephen Breyer; U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Chris Coons; as well as senior officials from the executive branch.

The Saban Forum is an annual high-level dialogue between American and Israeli leaders from across the political and social spectrum, convened by the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Saban Family Foundation. Over the past 14 years, the Saban Forum has become a seminal event for policy-focused discussion, generating new ideas and helping forge the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship

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