WASHINGTON — Two months after peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ground to a halt, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday that Ambassador Martin Indyk, who was appointed last July to lead the talks, would step down. Indyk, who for the past year has served as the US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, will be returning to his position as Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution.
“Ambassador Indyk has invested decades of his extraordinary career to the mission of helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a lasting peace. It’s the cause of Martin’s career, and I’m grateful for the wisdom and insight he’s brought to our collective efforts,” Kerry noted in a statement issued Friday morning.
“Martin’s simply invaluable, a terrific partner and friend, and he played a vital role in the progress that was made in the negotiations,” Kerry continued. “He’ll continue to work for peace, and as we’ve all said many times, the United States remains committed not just to the cause of peace, but to resuming the process when the parties find a path back to serious negotiations. I am very grateful to Martin for his indefatigable efforts and creativity, and I look forward to continue working closely with him.”
State Department officials said that Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, “will continue to work closely with Secretary Kerry on the Obama Administration’s efforts to help Israelis and Palestinians resolve their conflict.”
Indyk’s position will be filled on an interim basis by Deputy Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein, who will now serve as the Acting Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations. The temporary appointment has caused some in Washington to suspect that the permanent position may not be filled.
Indyk drew fire in May after the breakdown of talks for his assessment that settlement construction was a major factor in the failure of negotiations to reach a peace deal in nine months.
In a speech at the Washington Institute shortly after talks froze, Indyk criticized both sides for the failed peace talks.
That same month, a Yedioth Ahronoth feature, reportedly based on a briefing by Indyk, quoted unnamed US officials offering a withering assessment of Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, indicated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and warned Israel that the Palestinians will achieve statehood come what may — either via international organizations or through violence.
The officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.