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Welcome to the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development Online! 
 
The Institute for Middle East Peace and Development is an independent, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation that is dedicated to peace-making and peace-building in the Middle East, with special attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We are a pioneer in Track II diplomacy, facilitating confidential discussions between Israeli and Arab leaders in both the public and private sectors. We work towards solutions in mutual respect and understanding through dialogue, development, and education.
 Our genesis was in work under the Harvard University umbrella, organizing multi-day meetings in which students from Israel and from Palestine and other Arab societies could openly discuss their life experiences of the cost of the conflict and their motivation to resolve it. Towards the end of these intense dialogues, the last day would be spent exploring the participants’ designs for a solution, and both sides could weigh the costs and benefits of different approaches and assess the possibility that any solution could meet the basic needs of the peoples of the different societies.  We emphasized needs-based solutions, allowing consideration not only of the objective sources of disagreement – such as land, water, religious sites, and security – but also subjective needs, such as group solidarity, national dignity, and national identity These more subtle internal questions turned out to be especially sensitive. They demonstrated the complexity of the internal life of societies that had suffered from protracted conflict over generations.
 
In the course of working on dialogue, we became more and more aware that groups in major conflicts needed to resolve basic issues of economic and social development that had been ignored for too long as the societies focused on basic survival in the conflict environment.
 
As a maturation and outgrowth of that work, IMEPD was established by Dr. Stephen P. Cohen in 1979.  In particular, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Foreign Minister of Israel Moshe Dayan, and Acting Foreign Minister of Egypt Boutrous Boutrous Ghali were instrumental in providing assistance and support during this initial period. IMEPD was designed to serve expressly as a venue for confidential, Track II Arab-Israeli dialogue.  
 
We pioneered bringing together social scientists from Middle East universities for collaborative research. Within a short period, we were approached by emissaries from both sides to convene the first secret official negotiations between Israel and the PLO, under the aegis of Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.
 
By extending our relationships to additional Arab countries from Morocco to Yemen and all the countries in between, we were able to establish effective working relationships with Syrian leadership in 1989, when for the first time senior Israeli military and civilian leaders opened themselves to the possibility of Israeli-Syrian peace.  We came to know senior Alawi military and intelligence leaders of Syria who were normally completely inaccessible to Westerners.
 
In our travels to Algeria and Morocco, we were also invited by King Hassan II of Morocco to initiate a back-channel between the Moroccan leadership and the leadership of the Polisario, the national liberation movement of the people of the Western Sahara. We were able to practice shuttle diplomacy, though we did not succeed in reaching the point where they would sit together on a shared agenda. We were helpful in forestalling the outbreak of yet another bloody conflict between the Moroccan armed forces and the Polisario guerilla army.
 
The IMEPD’s theater of operations has not always been the relative tranquility of a peaceful conference room; we have on several occasions been literally caught in the crossfire between warring factions. This was true in the 1973 War and later in the successive Intifadas of the Palestinians against their occupation. The Lebanese civil war also had its frightening moments for us.
 
In the background of many important international gatherings, such as the Madrid Conference and the Moscow opening of the Multilateral Talks, we have used our back-channel approaches to help bring the parties closer to shared definition of the negotiating processes and goals.  We developed a special interest in the water shortage in the region and the dangerously poor quality of water being consumed by Palestinian children in Gaza.  We also helped the Canadian gavel-holder of the Refugee Working Group of the Madrid Process Multilateral Negotiations to reach more deeply into that fundamental problem than ever before, or since.
 
In the last decade, we came to recognize the growing importance of the religious dimensions of the conflict, including the establishment of militant religious groups among the Palestinians and the Israeli Settlers. We were motivated to bring together important religious personages and scholars from the three Abrahamic faiths.  In 2005, we convened for the first time foremost religious scholars and jurists from Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia together with leading Jewish and Christian scholars from the United States.  We were able to recruit from the full spectrum of Jewish denominations and from a variety of Christian churches throughout the county: Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox as well as multiple Protestants denominations, including Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Evangelicals from the American South and Midwest.  The American participants had never previously experienced such intense dialogue with leaders of Islam from the Middle East.
 
Today, we remain deeply engaged in the attempts to reinvigorate processes of peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians and between Syria and Israel.  We played a supportive role in helping to draft President Obama’s historic speech in Cairo in which he inaugurated his policy of transforming the United States’ relationship with Arab World from conflict to partnership and peacemaking and encouraging vistas of development, focusing especially on science and technology industries and innovative entrepreneurship.
 
We organize confidential discussions with Syrian leadership.  
 
We intend to conduct another Interfaith Leadership Program beginning in 2011 or 2012. This iteration will seek to prepare the younger generation of religious leaders of the three faiths to be a new force for interreligious respect and for advocacy of peace across barriers of civilizations and nations. 
 
We consistently advocate Jerusalem as a multi-ethnic city, and have been undaunted by political pressure in advancing our vision of the City of Peace.
 
As our name makes clear, we are also proponents of Middle East development. In that regard, IMEPD is active in a number of projects in both the media and resource development sectors. (Any for-profit ventures are conducted by Middle East Regional Development LLC, a fully separate for-profit business corporation.)
 
We have a special interest in the education and training of young Arabs, men and women, in technological and scientific projects that will expand their opportunity for remunerative job possibilities, which would also advance their societies as a whole. The interrelated issues of economy and water have become central as American leadership advocated a strong Palestinian economy; and we, too, focus our energies on this important effort.
 
 
 
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