Albright, Madeleine (1937–)

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ALBRIGHT, MADELEINE (1937–)

American political figure. Madeleine Korbel Albright was born in 1937 in Czechoslovakia. Her father, Joseph Korbel, was an eminent Czechoslovakian diplomat. Exiled to the United States in 1949, the family took up residence in Denver, where her father taught political science. A brilliant student, Albright was also developing into a militant Democrat. She taught International Relations for a time at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). Between 1976 and 1978 she was an assistant to Democratic senator Edmund Muskie; then, from 1978 to 1981, she was a member of the National Security Council, headed by Zbigniew Brzezinski. In 1984 she supported the vice-presidential campaign of Geraldine Ferraro. Between 1992 and 1994 she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

On 5 December 1996 Albright was named secretary of state in the administration of President Bill Clinton, replacing Warren Christopher, becoming the first woman ever to occupy the post. On 9 September 1997, she paid her first visit to the Middle East in an attempt to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which had been stalled since the coming to power of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. From then on, she and assistant Dennis Ross worked on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On 23 October 1998, at Wye River, Maryland, she sponsored the signing by Yasir Arafat and Netanyahu of an accord on the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) from the West Bank. On 5 September 1999, after visiting Syria and Lebanon, she traveled to Sharm al-Shaykh, Egypt, where, with Egyptian president Husni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan, she initialed the Israeli-Palestinian Accord signed by Arafat and Ehud Barak. This agreement, which was reached in the context of the application of the Wye River Agreements, brought a successful conclusion to the many meetings she held, both in Washington and the Middle East.

On 5 December 1999 Albright began another round of visits to the region, while the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were once more stalled. After a visit to Damascus, she announced that Syrian-Israeli negotiations would resume shortly in Washington, specifying that this would not slow down the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On 29 June 2000, after a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, she won the participation of Israelis and Palestinians in a tripartite summit, organized by the United States, to restart the peace negotiation process, even though Prime Minister Barak no longer had a majority at the Knesset. The summit, held in July at Camp David, Maryland, ended in failure. That December—in the last days of the Clinton administration and during a time of continued political difficulty for Barak—the United States presented what became known as the "Clinton proposals" for renewal of the peace process.

Since leaving her position as secretary of state, Albright has served on various boards promoting ethical foreign investment, was elected to the board of the New York Stock Exchange, and authored Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003). On 23 March 2004 she testified before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.

SEE ALSO Camp David II Summit; Clinton, William Jefferson; Oslo Accords II ; Sharm al-Shaykh Summits.