Newly-appointed US envoy to the Middle East process Martin Indyk on Monday asserted his belief that peace is possible as Israeli and Palestinian officials prepared to resumed peace negotiations in Washington after a three year hiatus, with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Indyk looking on.
"It’s been my conviction for 40 years that peace is possible since I experienced the agony of the 1973 Yom Kippur War as a student in Jerusalem," Indyk said in a statement accepting his new position.
Indyk, in a brief statement accepting the new position, praised Obama and Kerry for "persistence, patience and creativity" in bringing the sides back to the table, and acknowledged that the task ahead would be a "daunting and humbling" challenge.
“It is no secret
that this is a difficult process,” Kerry said at a press conference at the US
State Department announcing the beginning of the talks and Indyk’s appointment.
“If it were easy, it would have happened a long time [ago].”
secret, therefore, that many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and
for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated,
emotional and symbolic issues. I think reasonable compromises have to be a
keystone of all of this effort.”
Israel’s chief negotiator, Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak
Molcho were to meet late Monday over an Iftar breakfast at the State Department
dinner with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and Fatah official Muhammad
The discussions, which were expected to continue on Tuesday,
were to deal with technical and logistical matters. The following rounds of the
talks are expected to take place in the region.
US President Barack Obama
issued a statement following Kerry’s announcement of the talks saying that when
he was in Jerusalem and Ramallah in March he “experienced firsthand the profound
desire for peace among both Israelis and Palestinians, which reinforced my
belief that peace is both possible and necessary.”
“The most difficult
work of these negotiations is ahead,” Obama said, “and I am hopeful that both
the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with
sustained focus and determination.”
Kerry was set to brief Obama at the
White House before the dinner meeting and give him a “preview” of his plans for
the next two days. The secretary of state did not speak about the parameters or
terms of reference of the talks during his brief remarks to the press, though he
did mention “reasonable compromises” three times. He said he would have more to
say about “what our hopes are” after the initial meetings between the sides
conclude on Tuesday.
The secretary of state praised both Netanyahu and
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for “courageous leadership” and
“their willingness to make difficult decisions.”
He said Indyk’s role
would be to “help the parties navigate the path to peace and to avoid its many
Indyk will be assisted by Kerry’s aide, Frank Lowenstein, who
has been by Kerry’s side since March pushing the process forward.
is extremely well acquainted with the Israeli- Palestinian diplomatic process,
having served twice as the US ambassador to Israel under then-US president Bill
Clinton. Before that, he served as Clinton’s chief adviser in the National
Security Council on Arab-Israeli issues, as well as on Iraq and Iran. He also
worked with secretaries of state Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright on
For three years in the early 1980s, Indyk worked as a
deputy research director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and
then for eight years as the executive director of the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy.
Indyk will take a leave of absence for the new post
from his current job as director of foreign policy at the Brookings
Kerry termed Indyk “realistic,” and someone who knows that
peace will “not come easily and not happen overnight.” He said peace between
Israel and the Palestinians was Indyk’s “life mission,” and that his experience
in the region has earned him the respect of both sides “He knows what has worked
and he knows what hasn’t worked, and he knows how important it is to get this
right,” Kerry continued.
Livni issued a statement praising
the appointment, saying Indyk was a “talented and experienced” diplomat who
knows the conflict from up close, is familiar with every “path and obstacle” and
believes the conflict can be solved.
Prior to flying to Washington, Livni
and Molcho met UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon in New York. Ban expressed
“strong support for the resumption of credible negotiations to achieve the
two-state solution,” and in an apparent reference to the cabinet’s decision Sunday to release 104 Palestinian
security prisoners, expressed his appreciation for Netanyahu’s “recent
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, in her
daily press briefing, called the cabinet vote in Israel on the resumption of
negotiations and approval of the release of the Palestinian prisoners “a
positive step forward,” and said that the nine-month timeline outlined by both
parties for the talks “is not a deadline.”
Questioned about the decision
of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to put any final-status agreement
to a public referendum, Psaki said, “Our effort is to get there.”