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Institute Scholar-Statesman Honoree Ehud Barak Addresses ISIS, Peace Process, Iran Deal

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Institute Pays Tribute to Chairman Martin J. Gross at New York Gala

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  Ehud Barak, a decorated soldier and would-be peacemaker who served as Israel's prime minister and longtime defense minister, was honored with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's ninth annual Scholar-Statesman Award, its most prestigious prize, at a gala in New York City on December 1. The event, which attracted 500 attendees from the New York area and across the United States, also paid tribute to Institute chairman Martin J. Gross, a prominent leader in the investment and philanthropic communities.

"In the best tradition of the Scholar-Statesman, Ehud Barak's public service was infused with rigorous analysis and far-sighted leadership," said Institute Executive Director Robert Satloff, who is the Institute's Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy. "In a lifetime committed to pursuing both security and peace with vigor and resolve, he has earned the respect of his people, his allies and even his adversaries. We are proud to present him with the 2015 Scholar-Statesman Award." Mr. Barak joins such luminaries as President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz in receiving the prize.

During his five decades of public service, Mr. Barak rose to become the chief of staff of the IDF from 1991-1995 and prime minister from 1999 to 2001. He also served as defense minister (2007-2013) and foreign minister (1995-1996). He is Israel's most decorated soldier. View a biographical video.

In a lively, insightful and often humorous dialogue with Dr. Satloff, the former prime minister addressed key Middle East issues:

ISIS: Barak, a former defense minister, said that ISIS has only been able to survive because it has not met an army with the capability or the political will to subdue it. He warned that if it is not defeated in Iraq and Syria, its next victims may be moderate Sunni kingdoms.

Iran: Barak said that the Iran nuclear agreement is "a bad deal but it is a done deal." While the Iranians are constrained in their ability to conduct nuclear research today, the potential for them to cheat in the future is high. "Iran is an extremely important long-term threat and might remain so for the foreseeable future," he said.

U.S.-Israel Relations: As a longtime participant in bilateral relations with the United States, Barak lamented the loss of intimacy and trust in the wake of the Iran deal negotiations. He called upon both governments to mend fences and to respect one another's right to disagree.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process: Barak, who conducted intensive peace negotiations with the Palestinians during his term as prime minister in 2000, warned that unless Israelis and Palestinians find a solution to their conflict, Israel risks becoming a binational state. In the absence of diplomatic progress, he urged Israel to pursue a policy of "disengagement" — defining a border that provide security and withdrawing Israelis troops and civilians behind that defensible boundary line.

At the event, the Institute also paid tribute to former Institute president and current Chairman Martin J. Gross, who has been one of the organization’s most committed leaders for over two decades.

"Under Marty Gross' leadership, the Washington Institute grew stronger institutionally and bolder intellectually," said Satloff. "His tenure as president and chairman was characterized by great turbulence in the Middle East but under Marty's calm and wise direction, the institute was effective in identifying ideas and strategies to address the challenges of the 'Arab Spring,' the eruption of the Syrian conflict, the rise of ISIS, and the negotiation of a nuclear agreement with Iran."

The founder and president of Sandalwood Securities, Gross is a longstanding member of the Institute's Board of Trustees and Board of Directors. He established the Martin J. Gross Fellowship in Arab Politics and underwrote the creation of the Martin J. Gross Board Room in the Institute's new headquarters in Washington, D.C. Residents of New Jersey, Gross and his wife Ahuva are the parents of three adult children and grandparents of two.

At the event, the Institute announced the winners of its 2015 Book Prize, which recognizes outstanding new books in the English language that have illuminated the Middle East for American readers. Bruce Hoffman’s Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 was honored with the prestigious gold medal, Anita Shapira was awarded the silver medal for Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel, and Toby Matthiesen took home the bronze prize for The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism. The Book Prize is generously supported by Institute Trustees Michael and Shelly Kassen.

The dinner was chaired by Lorraine and Richard Abramson; Jill and Jay Bernstein; Carol and Roger Einiger; Lori and Zachary Schreiber; Shonni Silverberg and John Shapiro; Kimara and Josh Targoff. Honorary co-chairs were Judy and Howard Berkowitz; Susan and Roger Hertog; Lynn Schusterman; Merryl H. and James S. Tisch; and Mort Zuckerman.

About the Institute: The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution that advances a balanced and realistic understanding of U.S. interest in the broader Middle East. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.

Contact: Ian Byrne, media liaison, [email protected], 202-452-0650