A Call to Convene Regional Middle Eastern Think Tanks

Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies calls for the creation of a mechanism that will regularly convene think-tanks from the broader Middle East, to discuss implications of the ongoing changes in the region, and to explore and promote paths to security and peace for all in the region.


Civil society efforts to promote Israeli-Arab peace are usually of bi-lateral Israeli-Palestinian nature and are mostly carried out through people-to-people activities. Such efforts, while important to maintain, cannot lead to a breakthrough under the current political circumstances.


A new type of effort is necessary – one that is regional and not bi-lateral, and that is policy-oriented and not grassroots-based. Think tanks should play the key role in such an effort, as a bridge between research and policy, capable of analyzing complex situations, crafting different policy options, and devising regional scenarios and visions.


Foreign-policy think tanks are on the rise in the region - in Israel, in parts of the Arab world (especially in the Gulf and in North Africa), and in Turkey. This is a new channel that should be utilized for the sake of peace and of regional cooperation


Some of these think tanks may have interest in creating a platform for regional policy dialogues, which will advance regional peace initiatives, reflect on changing regional realities, draw relevant policy recommendations, and engage in long-term vision-led strategic planning.


The changing reality in the Middle East due to the Arab Spring presents an opportunity to launch new channels between Israel and the Arab World. It is a time of change, of challenging traditional ways of thinking and conduct. It is a time that calls for fresh ideas to be put forth, for new actors to step up, and for new paradigms to be shaped.


Until now, meetings between representatives of Israeli and other regional think tanks have been taking place on a very small scale and in a sporadic manner. Often through participation as individuals in one-time seminars or events conducted by Western institutions. Participants in such meetings often tend to be part of the old guard of their societies.


In order for such meetings to be effective and go beyond the gimmick of meeting someone from "the other side", there is need for something much more systematic, structured and sustainable. Regular periodical meetings should take place between institutions. They should have clear agendas and aims set in advance, emphasize a commitment and capacity to follow-through, and should also be attended by the new generation of foreign policy analysts.


Institutional cooperation is a key to making genuine impact that goes beyond the mere feel-good "exchange of thoughts" that often characterizes Israeli-Arab individual meetings. In order to overcome the difficulties in setting up such Israeli-Arab institutional cooperation, the involvement of a prominent international academic or policy institute that has the credibility, know-how, networks, and experience in the policy and international fields is needed.


Such an institute can initiate, guide, and facilitate this process as needed. It can be assisted by leading experts on the fields of think tanks and foreign policy and by prominent think tanks that have already set up a presence in the region.


Mitvim believes in the necessity of regularly convening think tanks from the broader Middle East. It can be a mechanism that will benefit Israel, the region, and the sake of peace. Mitvim is committed to contributing to the success of such an initiative, and to lead the process from the Israeli side. It is willing to engage in further deliberations and planning regarding this initiative with any interested and relevant partner.






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