Yair Hirschfeld, Ph.D., is the Isaac and Mildred Brochstein Fellow in Middle East Peace and Security in Honor of Yitzhak Rabin at the Baker Institute. Hirschfeld is currently teaching at the University of Haifa in the Department of Middle Eastern History. He is also the director general of the Tel Aviv-based Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF).
The ECF aims to develop a comprehensive strategy toward regional peacemaking and reconciliation by pursuing policy planning on issues of permanent status and by developing concepts, strategies and implementation designs supporting Israeli-Arab (Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian) cooperation and coordination in political, economic and social spheres. Under the auspices of the institute’s Conflict Resolution Program, Hirschfeld participates in the Baker Institute’s Israeli-Palestinian Working Group, both at the institute and in the Middle East. In December 1992, Hirschfeld created the Oslo Channel and headed its Israeli team until May 1993.
Having developed bridging concepts and obtained support from the Israeli government as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, the unofficial track became official May 20, 1993, when Hirschfeld joined the official Israeli negotiating team. From 1994 to 1995, Hirschfeld was a member of the Israeli team that prepared the first Israeli-Palestinian blueprint for the Permanent Status Agreement, which has become known as the “Beilin-Abu Mazen Understanding.”
Samih Al-Abid, Ph.D., is the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies. Under the auspices of the institute’s Conflict Resolution Program, he participates in the Baker Institute Israeli-Palestinian Working Group, both at the institute and in the Middle East. Al-Abid heads the Palestinian Housing Council, a nonprofit institution that provides development plans, loans and other forms of support to help meet Palestinian housing needs in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
He is also a consultant for the CEO and chairman of the Palestinian Investment Fund, an independent firm that aims to strengthen the local economy and generate investor returns through projects that create jobs and other benefits for Palestinian citizens. Previously, as head of the Committee for Borders and Territory, Al-Abid was integrally involved in a final status agreement between Palestine and Israel.
In addition, he was a key participant in negotiations during the Camp David, Taba and Annapolis processes in pursuit of peace and stability in the region. Al-Abid has been involved in the planning and development of the West Bank for more than 30 years.
As the Palestinian Authority unity government’s minister of public works and housing (2007) and deputy minister of planning (1995-2007), he developed planning policies at the regional and national levels, coordinated with various ministries to put a unified strategic development plan for Palestine before the cabinet, and negotiated with donor countries to establish programs for an economically viable Palestine. Al-Abid earned a Ph.D. in regional planning from Liverpool University in the United Kingdom; an M.A. in urban design from North Carolina State University in Raleigh; and a B.Sc. in urban planning and architecture from Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
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