Conference of Presidents Holds Unprecedented Joint Briefing with Council on Foreign Relations

New York, NY

On July 20, 2016, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) hosted a first ever joint program in which leaders from the more than fifty member organizations of the Conference explored crucial issues of current world affairs with a panel of CFR scholars and experts led by Dr. Richard Haass, CR President. 

In a statement after the session, Stephen Greenberg, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, said “As conflicts intensify, fueling instability in many parts of the world, it is imperative for the Jewish community and all Americans to understand the increasingly complex and multi-faceted implications of U.S. foreign policy today. That is why the Conference of Presidents and the Council on Foreign Relations convened this unprecedented joint briefing for the leaders of our member organizations focusing primarily on the most turbulent region in the world, the Middle East. 

The opportunity for leaders of our member organizations to engage with a high level panel of experienced foreign policy scholars, experts and practitioners from the CFR, was invaluable.  It provided them with a deeper understanding of the complicated issues and dynamic forces influencing the foreign policy decisions of the U.S. and other governments, helping to clarify many issues and guide our future discourse. We appreciated the opportunity to hear these in-depth perspectives, and hope this will be the first of many such sessions.”

In his opening remarks, Malcolm Hoenlein thanked the Council for hosting and co-sponsoring this meaningful and unprecedented session with a large number of members of the Conference.  He noted the importance for the leadership of the American Jewish community to hear directly from some of the world’s leading foreign relations experts on issues vital to both U.S., Israeli and global security. He also noted that this was an era of superficiality, with little patience for history and context when issues are so complex and compelling.

Dr. Haass opened the panel discussion by noting that the Middle East continues to be the most turbulent part of the world, and that the de facto borders of the region bear little resemblance to the lines on current world maps, nor to the lines drawn by Sykes-Picot. Dr. Haass also explained that while understanding history continues to be an integral factor in understanding current events, one can no longer take anything for granted regarding international affairs because the actors and the circumstances are constantly shifting. Dr. Haas then introduced and moderated the panel of Council experts, who spoke about a wide range of topics.

Dr. Steven A. Cook, a leading scholar and expert on Egypt and Turkey as well as U.S. Middle East policy discussed the recent turmoil in Turkey, comparing and contrasting the failure by elements of the Turkish military to remove the elected leaders of Turkey with the successful change of regime led by the military in Egypt in 2013.

Max Boot, author of the New York Times Bestseller Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient times to the Present, addressed the current state of the efforts aimed at thwarting ISIS and other terrorist groups actively involved in the ongoing Syrian civil war, stressing the need for an end to that conflict.

Dr. Ray Takeyh, a former senior advisor on Iran to the U.S. Department of State, provided an assessment U.S.-Iranian relations a year after the JCPOA agreement was signed, commenting on varying levels of dissatisfaction with the immediate results of the deal in both Washington and Tehran.

Following the panel discussion Dr. Haass and the other experts engaged in an intense exchange with the Conference leadership.



The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 50 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern

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