Obama’s Middle East peace initiative

Much has been said and written about US President Obama’s Middle East peace initiative and the roles of key political players.

FlagsBut what are the implications for the process from the critical perspective of wider society – the people of the US, Israel, Palestine and the Jewish and Palestinian Diaspora in different parts of the world including Australia – especially in light of the dramatic civil unrest sweeping many parts of the Arab world?

These are key questions to be examined at a  two-day La Trobe University symposium organised by the Centre for Dialogue starting this Thursday which examines the lessons learnt, and implications for a discussion of a ‘Roadmap for Peace’.

‘We will explore ways in which it might still be possible to advance the prospects for a negotiated settlement to the conflict,’ says Dr Michális S. Michael, Deputy Director of the University’s Centre for Dialogue, and forum organiser.

‘There will be a strong emphasis on the role of civil society, especially in relation to the negotiating process. This is a dimension to which lip-service is often paid, but which is seldom rigorously considered,’ he says. 

‘Has civil society in these different communities aided or impeded the process of dialogue? How might civil society be enabled to play a more effective facilitating role?

‘Our aim is to examine the role of civil society, not in isolation, but in relation to the political process -  to the attitudes and perceptions of governments and the key political players in the conflict - as well as salient international forums and institutions.’

Dr Michael says in examining the US role in the Middle East, the symposium will clarify why these initiatives have so far failed to bear fruit - and what a new and broader perspective of  ‘dialogue’  might bring to the analysis of recent efforts and future prospects.

‘Our focus will centre on the difficulties that inevitably accompany any attempt by a third party to foster meaningful and sustained dialogue in a situation marked by longstanding and profound mistrust, suspicion, and hostility.’

The keynote speaker is Professor Oliver Ramsbotham, Emeritus Professor of Conflict Resolution at the University of Bradford (UK).

Other international visitors include:

Professor Avraham Sela, Chair of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem;

Dr Karim Makdisi, Assistant Professor of International Politics at the American University of Beirut; and,

Dr Scott Lasensky, Senior Research Associate in the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the US Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C.

The forum will be held from 23 to 24 June at the Conference Research & Development Park, on La Trobe University’s Melbourne Campus at Bundoora.

For details about the program and speakers, please see:

For more information and requests for interviews with speakers, please contact:

Dr Michális S. Michael,

Tel: (03) 9479 2140; Mob: 0410 197 475;  Email: m.michael@latrobe.edu.au

Further media assistance: Penny Underwood
, Tel: (03) 9818 8540; Email: mediawise@mediawise.net.au