Egypt’s largest diaspora organization, the Union of Egyptians in Europe, sponsored a rare gathering of Arabs, Israelis, and international observers in London Tuesday. Titled “The Regional Approach to Arab-Israeli Partnership: Ancient Dreams, New Horizons,” it featured a panel of noted advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the broader framework of regional integration.
Isam Abdel Samad, chairman of the Union of Egyptians in Europe, condemned a new Israeli law legitimizing dozens of unlawfully built Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank — a “huge disappointment,” he said, as well as an impediment to reconciliation. Nonetheless, he said, there are numerous opportunities to bring Arabs and Israelis together for each others’ mutual benefit, highlighting the promise of NGOs in facilitating future collaborations.
Veteran American peace envoy Dennis Ross, who shaped U.S. involvement in regional conflict resolution efforts under the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, told the gathering that in his eyes, both Israelis and Arabs can do more to understand each other’s needs and concerns — a prerequisite to any constructive relationship.
Koby Huberman, co-founder of the Israeli Regional Initiative, stressed the need for a regional approach — from his own perspective as a longtime advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He opined that such an outcome could more readily be achieved if other regional actors joined Palestinians and Israelis in facilitating it. He also called on multiple sectors of each society to directly engage their counterparts — as important an effort as statecraft, he said.
The event was attended by guests from seven Arab countries and Israel, spanning the region’s major denominations and faiths. Among the more vigorous participants in the follow-on discussion were Dr. Nabil Mustapha, Chairman of the Elmbridge Multi-Faith Forum; and Gamal Abdel Maaboud, Vice Chairman of the Union of Egyptians in Europe.
A more extensive report on the panel’s proceedings will be forthcoming.