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On Thursday, February 4, 2016, Concordia welcomed Leadership Council member and former Senator, George Mitchell, to discuss geopolitical power shifts in the Middle East at The Metropolitan Club of New York. After a welcome from Concordia co-founders Matthew Swift and Nicholas Logothetis, the former Senator drew on his experience as Senate Majority Leader from 1989-1995, Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace talks, and most recently, U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace to answer questions from Concordia members in attendance.

The roundtable conversation opened with the issue of current obstacles standing between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. Senator Mitchell responded with hope, “[Israel and the Palestinian Authority] have failed to reach an agreement, but I am convinced that it will happen because it is in the interest of both parties.” However, he reminded the audience that the two leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, are unlikely to resume direct negotiations on their own. It is important that the United States remain involved as it is the only entity capable of bringing the two sides together and of implementing any agreement between them.

Senator Mitchell continued by addressing domestic issues within the two nations, specifically the lack of trust between the two leaders and the two peoples. While discussing a single-state versus two-state solution, he shared the harsh reality of the conflict through personal stories involving Palestinian and Israeli victims of displacement and war.

Regarding the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Senator Mitchell expressed his support, saying that whatever Iran now does, or tries to do in the region, it will be much less effective without a nuclear weapon than it would be with one.  He noted that Iran has verifiably complied with the provisions of the treaty that required it to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, reduce its operating centrifuges by two-thirds, disable one of its reactors, and other steps.  He stressed the importance of Iran not getting such a weapon because of the threat that would pose to Israel and to nuclear non-proliferation regime.  He further said that if Iran cheats on the treaty and tries to get a nuclear weapon the United States would be in a very strong position to assemble an international coalition to prevent it from doing so, including military action if necessary.

After the discussion, a short reception was held with the Senator for all Concordia members.