Tamara Cofman Wittes is a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, where her research focuses on US-Israeli and US-Arab relations. Wittes served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from November of 2009 to January 2012, coordinating U.S. policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East for the State Department. Wittes also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as deputy special coordinator for Middle East transitions. She was central to organizing the U.S. government's initial response to the Arab awakening.
Before joining the State Department, Wittes was a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, where she directed the Middle East Democracy and Development (MEDD) Project. In that capacity, Wittes conducted research into political and economic reform in the Middle East region as well as U.S. efforts to promote democracy there. Before joining the Center in December 2003, Wittes served as Middle East specialist at the U.S. Institute of Peace and previously as director of programs at the Middle East Institute in Washington. She also taught courses in international relations and security studies at Georgetown University. Wittes was one of the first recipients of the Rabin-Peres Peace Award, established by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Wittes is the author of Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy (Brookings Press, 2008). She is also editor of How Israelis and Palestinians Negotiate: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Oslo Peace Process (USIP, 2005). She holds a B.A. in Judaic and Near Eastern studies from Oberlin College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Women in International Security, and sits on the advisory boards of the Israel Institute and of the UC-Berkeley Program on Entrepreneurship and Development in the Middle East.