munich moment

Israel-Hamas war looms large at Munich Security Conference 2024

The Israeli delegation includes President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Israel Katz and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

Johannes Simon/Getty Images

General view outside the Hotel Bayerischer Hof before the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2024 in Munich, Germany.

For the third year in a row, Ukraine will dominate much of the conversation at the Munich Security Forum, which kicks off this morning. Unlike years past, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the future of the Middle East will play a prominent role, with several sessions dedicated to the Israel-Hamas war.

Vice President Kamala Harris is slated to speak this morning in conversation with Munich Security Conference Chairman Christoph Heusgan. The sit-down, “The U.S. and the World,” marks Harris’ third appearance at the annual conference since becoming vice president. Shortly after her address, she’ll meet privately with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, are speaking on a panel on Friday afternoon focused on sexual violence in war. Lipstadt will speak on a second panel later today focused on disinformation.

Immediately afterwards, the relatives of hostages held in Gaza are holding an event to raise awareness about their loved ones’ captivity. Israel’s coordinator for the hostages and missing, Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, and Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz are both slated to attend.

Also Friday afternoon, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will speak on a panel titled “Off Limits: Protecting International Humanitarian Law.” Speaking alongside Livni is Mirjana Spoljaric, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has come under fire for its failure to provide aid to the hostages in Gaza.

Noticeably absent: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who attends the conference annually, won’t be among the nearly two dozen members of Congress at the confab, having said earlier this week that he would be skipping the gathering and will instead travel to the U.S. border with Mexico days after voting against a measure that would have provided aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Former U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and White House special advisor Amos Hochstein are speaking this afternoon on panels focused on climate and energy, respectively.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken will speak on Saturday alongside his German and Indian counterparts in a session titled “Growing the Pie: Seizing Shared Opportunities.” Also Saturday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Anwar Mohammed Gargash, a member of the Federal Cabinet of the UAE  and senior diplomatic advisor to the president of the UAE, will speak in a session focused on the Red Sea.

The focus shifts on Saturday afternoon to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s war with Hamas, with back-to-back sessions focused on deescalating tensions in the Middle East. The first panel will feature Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. The second panel will feature Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Herzog will speak separately, in conversation with the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

In a session focused squarely on the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Livni will share the stage with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, as well as the foreign ministers of Jordan, Spain and Canada. 

Among the other participants slated to attend the summit are Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Ambassador to German Amy Gutmann, former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Harris’ National Security Advisor Phil Gordon, French National Assembly member Benjamin Haddad, former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans Robert Silvers and the Hudson Institute’s Kenneth Weinstein.

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