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"Breaking the Impasse"

A joint peace initiative of Palestinian and Israeli business and civic leaders

November 15, 2013

The Middle East Institute hosted the founders and supporters of "Breaking the Impasse" (BTI), an initiative of the World Economic Forum established in 2012 by major Israeli, Palestinian, and international leaders from business and civil society committed to renewing the wider momentum for peace. In May 2013, the BTI convened Secretary John Kerry, President Mahmoud Abbas, and President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, Jordan. Since the restart of the peace negotiations this past summer, the BTI has grown to include over 300 leaders and is working in support of the official process to accelerate progress toward peace.

Co-founders Munib R. Masri, chairman of the Palestine Development and Investment Company (PADICO), and Yossi Vardi one of Israel's leading high-tech investors and entrepreneurs, were joined by Miroslav Dusek of the World Economic Forum in a Davos-style discussion moderated by Amb. Daniel Kurtzer about the importance and impact of the "Breaking the Impasse" initiative.

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Munib R. Masri is a founder and chairman of the Palestine Development and Investment Company (PADICO), whose mission is to develop and strengthen the Palestinian economy and which has launched 35 companies in Palestine in the fields of telecommunications, construction, tourism, energy, finance, and agriculture. He is also a founder and honorary chairman of the Welfare Association, the leading Palestinian non-governmental development organization, and the chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Palestine. He is actively involved in the education sector as a member of the Board of Trustees of Al-Quds University, as a Trustee Emeritus at the American University of Beirut, and by supporting numerous schools and universities, including the Engineering and Technology College at An Najah University, which is named after him. Mr. Masri graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in petroleum geology and holds a master's degree in geology and government.  He has been awarded honorary doctorates from a number of universities, most recently from the American University of Beirut in recognition of his contributions towards promoting social welfare, education and development in Palestine, particularly his attempts at advancing the cause of peace.

Yossi Vardi is one of Israel's early entrepreneurs, having co-founded, led, and helped build over 80 high-tech companies over the past 44 years, including Tekem, one of Israel's first software houses. He co-pioneered instant messaging as founding investor and chairman of Mirabilis Ltd., the creator of ICQ. He has advised the World Bank and UNDP, as well as the CEOs of AOL, Amazon, and Allied Signal. Mr. Vardi has served as director general of the Ministry of Development and the Ministry of Energy; as chairman of the Israel National Oil Company and the Jerusalem Foundation; and on numerous boards, including Bezeq, Israel Electric, Amdocs, and the Bank of Israel. He participated in peace talks with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinians. He has received many prizes, including the Israeli Prime Minister's High-Tech award for life achievements, which he has been awarded twice.

Miroslav (Mirek) Dusek is the senior director and head of the Middle East and North Africa team at the World Economic Forum, where he also leads the Breaking the Impasse initiative under the auspices of Prof. Klaus Schwab, the Forum's executive chairman. Prior to joining the Forum he worked at the U.S. Embassies in Baghdad and Prague. From 2007-2010, he was a Global Leadership Fellow with the World Economic Forum. Mr. Dusek holds a B.A. in political science from Charles University in Prague and an M.A. in international studies from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He is a fluent Arabic speaker.

Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer is a lecturer and the S. Daniel Abraham Professor in Middle Eastern Policy Studies at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1997 to 2001 and to Israel from 2001 until 2005, when he retired after a distinguished 29-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Throughout his career, Ambassador Kurtzer played key roles in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East peace process. He crafted the 1988 peace initiative of Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and was instrumental in bringing about the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. He was subsequently coordinator of the multilateral peace negotiations and U.S. representative in the Multilateral Refugee Working Group. He is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the President's Distinguished Service Award and the Department of State Distinguished Service Award.