Celia Whitaker

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Back in the fall of 1997, when the first meeting of the Middle East Legal Studies Seminar took place in New Haven, Connecticut, the second Palestinian intifada was still three years away. The now infamous Camp David summit at which Yasir Arafat and Ehud Barak would fail to reach a final territorial settlement lay in the distant future. Hafiz al-Assad still ruled Syria. The five-year interim period announced by the Oslo Peace Accord was three years old. In 1995, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Arafat had shared the Nobel Peace Prize; that same year, Israel and Jordan, then still ruled by King Hussein, had signed a peace treaty that marked the Arab state's historic recognition of its Jewish neighbor. In other words, optimism was in the air.

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