This House believes Britain's role in the Middle East is in terminal decline

Monday November 26 2007
Cambridge Union Society, Cambridge, UK

MOTION REJECTED by 32% to 68%


Shlomo Ben-Ami

Speaking for the motion
Shlomo Ben-Ami

Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli Foreign Minister who currently holds the position of Vice-President of the Toledo International Center for Peace in Spain of which he is a co-founder.

Mr. Ben-Ami was appointed Foreign Minister of Israel in 2000, a position he held until March 2001. He resigned in protest over his party's continued participation in Ariel Sharon's government. During his political career, he was involved in various Middle East peace negotiations including the Camp David Summit.

Shlomo Ben-Ami was elected to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, in 1996 where he served as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. After Labor's landslide victory in 1999, he was appointed as Minister of Public Security. A year later he became Foreign Minister.

As Foreign Minister, he conducted the secret negotiations with Abu Ala in Stockholm (The Swedish Channel). He also participated with then Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the Camp David Summit, after which he led the Israeli team in all the different phases of the negotiations with the Palestinians, including Taba.

Before entering the Knesset, he was Israel's first Ambassador in Spain in 1987, where he served until December 1991. He was a member of Israel's delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference and in 1993, he headed the Israeli delegation at the Multilateral Talks on Refugees in the Middle East held in Ottawa, Canada.

Mr. Ben-Ami was educated at Tel Aviv University where he did his B.A and M.A in History and Hebrew Literature, and at Oxford University (St. Antony's College) where he received his D.Phil. He taught at the History Department of Tel Aviv University and from 1980-1982 Professor Ben-Ami was a Visiting Fellow ay St. Antony's College in Oxford. In 1992 he had a similar fellowship at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Professor Ben-Ami is the author of several books including Scars of War, Wounds of Peace. The Arab-Israeli Tragedy, a comprehensive overview of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the quest for peace which was first published in 2005. His other books include Quel avenir pour Israel? which analyses the Israeli-Palestinian situation and Israel's regional and international dilemmas.


Raghida Dergham

Speaking against the motion
Raghida Dergham

Raghida Dergham is a columnist and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent for Al Hayat newspaper, the leading London-based independent Arabic daily. She writes a regular weekly strategic column on international political affairs.

She is also a political analyst for NBC, MSNBC and the Arab satellite channel LBC. She is a contributing editor for LA Times Syndicate Global Viewpoint and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune and Newsweek Magazine.

She has interviewed over 20 Heads of State, numerous Foreign Ministers and has broken major news stories, including the secret talks in Oslo. She was the only journalist to interview Ramzi Youssef, the alleged mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center.

Ms. Dergham is a member of the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum at Davos, composed by 100 of the most respected and influential media figures worldwide and was featured in PBS documentary Caught in The Crossfire.

She is also a member of The Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of the International Women's Media Foundation. She also served as the Chairman of the Dag Hammarskjold Memorial Scholarship Fund Board and was President of the United Nations Correspondents Association.


Baroness Falkner

Speaking for the motion
Baroness Falkner

Kishwer Falkner is a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords. She was the first Muslim peer for the Liberal Democrats and takes an active interest in foreign affairs and civil liberties and community relations. She speaks extensively on public policy issues relating to Muslims in the West, multiculturalism and integration.

Baroness Falkner has served on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the European Union Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and International Development and on the Joint Committee on the Legal Services Bill.

She has also served as Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Home Affairs, on Communities and Local Government, and is currently Spokesman on Children, Schools and Families. In 2005, she was appointed to the Prime Minister's Taskforce on Tackling Muslim Extremism.

In 2006, she was a Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, teaching a seminar on US foreign policy and democracy for the Muslim World.

Born in Pakistan and naturalised as a UK citizen in 1983, she joined the Liberal Democrats in the mid 1980s and worked for the party in several posts until 1999. She stood as prospective parliamentary candidate in Kensington and Chelsea in 2001, gaining the highest ethnic minority vote for Liberal Democrats in London. She was elevated to the House of Lords in 2004.

After schooling in Pakistan, Kishwer read International Relations at the London School of Economics and gained an M.A. in European Studies at the University of Kent.


Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Speaking against the motion
Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Malcolm Rifkind served as British Foreign Secretary from 1995-1997 and was one of only four ministers to serve throughout the whole Prime Ministerships of both Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Sir Malcolm first entered politics in 1970 when he became a local councillor in Edinburgh. In 1974 he was elected as MP for Pentlands and represented that constituency until 1997.

He was appointed to the Front Bench in 1975 but resigned over devolution in 1977. In 1979, when the Conservatives were returned to power under Margaret Thatcher, he was appointed a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at first in the Scottish Office and then, at the time of the Falklands War, he was transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, being promoted to Minister of State in 1983.

He became a member of the Cabinet in 1986 as Secretary of State for Scotland. In 1990 he became Secretary of State for Transport and in 1992 Secretary of State for Defence. In 1997 he was knighted in recognition of his public service.

Sir Malcolm was re-elected as a Member of Parliament in May 2005 for Kensington and Chelsea. He served as the Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions and Welfare Reform until December 2005 when he chose to return to the backbenches. He has been selected to fight the new Kensington constituency at the next General Election.

Sir Malcolm has also been active in a number of voluntary organisations. He is a member of the Dulverton Trust, a Vice President of Combat Stress and a Patron of Raleigh International. He has served on the Court of Edinburgh University and is an honorary colonel. He is a member of the Queen's Bodyguard , the Royal Company of Archers.

He was educated at George Watson's College and Edinburgh University where he studied law before taking a postgraduate degree in political science.


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