Martin Indyk, US special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, reportedly will resign from his position following the recent failure of the US-backed talks.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Indyk is considering resigning in light of President Barack Obama’s intention to suspend US involvement in seeking a negotiated end to the conflict, citing unnamed Israeli officials “who are close to the matter.” Indyk has informed the Brookings Institute that he will soon return to his vice president post, from which he took a leave of absence during the negotiations, Haaretz reported.
It also said Indyk is being identified in Jerusalem as the anonymous source in a report by Yedioth Aharonoth columnist Nahum Barnea on Friday in which unnamed American officials primarily blamed Israel for the failure of the peace talks.
“There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements,” the official told Barnea. “The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. Only now, after talks blew up, did we learn that this is also about expropriating land on a large scale. That does not reconcile with the agreement.
“At this point, it’s very hard to see how the negotiations could be renewed, let alone lead to an agreement. Towards the end, [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas demanded a three-month freeze on settlement construction. His working assumption was that if an accord is reached, Israel could build along the new border as it pleases. But the Israelis said no.”
The official said the world community pays more attention to Israel’s actions than other countries because “(I)t was founded by a UN resolution. Its prosperity depends on the way it is viewed by the international community.”
He added: “The Jewish people are supposed to be smart; it is true that they’re also considered a stubborn nation. You’re supposed to know how to read the map: In the 21st century, the world will not keep tolerating the Israeli occupation. The occupation threatens Israel’s status in the world and threatens Israel as a Jewish state.”
Later in the interview the official told Barnea: “The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end – whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.”
According to the official, the United States is “taking a time out to think and reevaluate.”
In Barnea’s lengthy article Friday, American officials directly involved in the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace process over the last nine months gave a withering assessment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, and indicated that Abbas has completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of uS Secretary of State John Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.
Barnea, who described his conversations with the American officials as “the closest thing to an official American version of what happened” in the talks, said the secretary is now deciding whether to wait a few months and try to renew the negotiating effort or to publicize the US’s suggested principles of an agreement.
Detailing how the US sought to solve disputes over the core issues of a two-state solution, Barnea wrote on Friday that, “using advanced software, the Americans drew a border outline in the West Bank that gives Israel sovereignty over some 80 percent of the settlers that live there today. The remaining 20 percent were meant to evacuate. In Jerusalem, the proposed border is based on Bill Clinton’s plan — Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians.”
He quoted the Americans saying that while the Israeli government made no response to the American plan, and also failed to draw its own border outline, Abbas agreed to the US-suggested border outline.
One bitter American official told Barnea, “I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress.”
The American officials described to Barnea what they called Abbas’s loss of trust in the talks and in Netanyahu, and how his skepticism hardened as settlement-building continued, and as Israel demanded complete security control over the territories. From Abbas’s point of view, the Americans told Barnea, the sense was “that nothing was going to change on the security front. Israel was not willing to agree to time frames; its control of the West Bank would continue forever. Abbas reached the conclusion that there was nothing for him in such an agreement. He’s 79 years old. He has reached the last chapter of his life. He’s tired. He was willing to give the process one final chance, but found, according to him, that he has no partner on the Israeli side. His legacy won’t include a peace agreement with Israel.
“In February, Abbas arrived at a Paris hotel for a meeting with Kerry. He had a lingering serious cold. ‘I’m under a lot of pressure,’ he complained. ‘I’m sick of this.’ He rejected all of Kerry’s ideas. A month later, in March, he was invited to the White House. Obama presented the American-formulated principles verbally — not in writing. Abbas refused.”
In a rare attribution of some blame to Abbas, the Americans said they “couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much” to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But here too, ultimately, the Americans were empathetic to Abbas: “The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.”
Some of the warnings delivered by the Americans reflected a similar tone to that expressed by Obama in an interview he gave shortly before his last meeting with Netanyahu at the White House in March.
Israel can expect to face international isolation and possible sanctions from countries and companies across the world if Netanyahu fails to endorse a framework agreement with the Palestinians, Obama cautioned in an interview with Bloomberg at the time. If Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach,” Obama said then. “There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” he said.
The president went on to condemn Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank, and said that though his allegiance to the Jewish state was permanent, building settlements across the Green Line was counterproductive and would make it extremely difficult for the US to defend Israel from painful repercussions in the international community. “If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time — if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited,” Obama warned.