The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace was founded in 1989 by Slim Fast Foods founder S. Daniel Abraham and U.S. Congressional Representative Wayne Owens (D-Utah). S. Daniel Abraham is a World War II combat veteran who, after experiencing the horrors of war, committed himself to the prevention of future conflicts. Representative Owens was a Mormon who championed the belief that economic cooperation could incentivize a more prosperous, secure, and stable Middle East. The two men established a unique friendship that blossomed into a partnership in seeking a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Owens joined the Center full-time as president in 1993 and remained in that role until his untimely death in 2002.
Abraham and Owens visited the region more than 60 times and built numerous working relationships with the political leadership The Center forged deep ties with members of Congress, encouraging practical and informed discussions about how to bring about a two-state solution via diplomatic exchanges, conferences, and workshops. Congressional members who were substantively interested in learning about the region were invited to join the delegations, according to mission organizer and Senior Consultant Sarah Ehrman, a longtime Democratic Party operative and pro-Israel activist.
For twenty years, the Center sponsored dozens of delegations that traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen. The Center recognized that to solve the conflict, it was necessary to build relationships with the many countries in the region that opposed a two-state solution, in addition to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The Center also forged close relationships with the Executive branch. The group played a critical role during the 1990s Oslo-process years by bringing together key parties. Abraham’s close personal relationship with President Bill Clinton and the Center’s close ties with top Clinton advisers Sandy Berger and John Podesta and power brokers throughout the region made this possible.
In 2003, the Center began the Maps Project to provide crucial information to public officials, civil society leaders, and others engaged in the pursuit of the two-state solution. The project, based on Geographical Information System (GIS) software, contains a vast database regarding the territorial dimension of the conflict. It focuses on potential final status scenarios such as border trajectories and land swaps, as well as Jerusalem issues. The database also includes the geo-political lay of the land: Israeli and Palestinian populations including Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli security barrier, major infrastructure, historical lines, historical border proposals, track II initiatives, and more. The database has been made accessible to official negotiators and decision-makers during negotiation. It has a simplified “borders feature” accessed through Is Peace Possible that allows any user to create border proposals for a two-state solution through its interactive mapping feature.
In November 2015, the Center launched a series of periodic full page ads in the New York Times that seek to encourage diplomatic momentum, and to educate the American Jewish community and the general public about the urgency of reaching a two-state solution.
The Center’s mission to work with “leaders, policymakers, and constituencies in the United States and the Middle East to help reach a just and comprehensive peace that will bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict” continues under the leadership of the Honorable Robert Wexler. After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees for 13 years, the Florida Congressman joined the Center in 2010 as President, building upon the lifelong work of Abraham and Owens.
After decades of dedication to the Center, Abraham remains an active member of the organization that he founded. As he told the American Jewish Peace Archive’s Aliza Becker in March 2016, “Keep going. Keep working for it. Keep fighting for it. Peace will come because conflict must end. We're not going to stay in conflict forever. As much as every day seems like forever, it isn't. And sooner or later because peace is the right thing, is the right way to live.”