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Israeli–Palestinian Negotiations through the Eyes of US Presidential Interpreter Gamal Helal

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael



Gamal Helal (b. 1954) is a former senior diplomatic interpreter and special adviser to the US government who served as senior diplomatic interpreter for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, as well as numerous secretaries of state and defense and national security advisers.
Mr. Helal began as an Arabic interpreter in the US Department of State and played a critical role during talks with Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War. In addition to his role as senior diplomatic Arabic interpreter for the White House and US government, he also served in the following capacities at the Department of State: senior adviser to the Middle East special coordinator for Arab–Israeli negotiations and a member of President Clinton’s team on Arab–Israeli negotiations (1996–2000); senior adviser to the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs on Arab–Israeli negotiations and American bilateral relations with the Arab world (2000–08); senior adviser to Palestinian–Israeli negotiations (2009); and senior adviser on Gulf Security (2009).
The following is excerpted from the transcripts of an interview with Mr. Helal that is part of a major research project based on discussions with some eighty Israeli, Palestinian, American, Swedish, Norwegian, Egyptian, Jordanian, British, and United Nations senior officials and peace negotiators, facilitators, and mediators who were involved in Arab–Israeli peace negotiations over the past three decades. It reflects the mistakes made along the road to peace as well as the challenges in finding a potential solution to the conflict. What follows are the most salient points covered in our conversation, which took place remotely on November 11, 2022.


Cohen-Almagor, R. (in press). Israeli–Palestinian Negotiations through the Eyes of US Presidential Interpreter Gamal Helal. Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 20, 2023
Online Publication Date Dec 1, 2023
Deposit Date Jan 8, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 2, 2025
Journal Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs
Print ISSN 2373-9770
Electronic ISSN 2373-9789
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Arafat, peace negotiations; Arab–Israeli conflict; Palestine; PLO; Camp David; Refugees; USA mediation
Public URL


This file is under embargo until Jun 2, 2025 due to copyright reasons.

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