Secretary of State John Kerry, as expected, named veteran diplomat Martin Indyk his new special peace envoy, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams arrived in Washington Monday to begin direct talks for the first time in three years.
Indyk, 62, a former US envoy to Israel and Clinton peace negotiator, “knows what has worked and he knows what hasn’t worked, and he knows how important it is to get this right,” Kerry told reporters at the State Department Monday. “Ambassador Indyk is realistic. He understands that Israeli-Palestinian peace will not come easily and it will not happen overnight.”
“But he also understands that there is now a path forward and we must follow that path with urgency,” Kerry said.
Kerry called on the parties to be willing to make “reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional and symbolic issues,” the Associated Press reported. “I think reasonable compromises have to be a keystone of all of this effort.”
President Obama, in a statement Monday, praised the choice of Indyk, but also sounded a sober note about prospects for a breakthrough.
“The most difficult work of these negotiations is ahead, and I am hopeful that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with sustained focus and determination,” Obama said in a statement Monday.
An Arab diplomat, speaking not for attribution in an interview to Al-Monitor Monday, praised the pick of Indyk for negotiator, saying he is trusted by all sides, and, importantly, sees the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a wider, regional context.
The Australian-born Indyk, currently vice president of the Brookings Institution, previously served as US envoy to Israel and as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East affairs. He helped found the think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Brookings said Monday he was taking a leave of absence effective immediately to take up his new duties as Special Envoy.
Indyk was recently engaged to Gahl Burt, vice chair of the American Academy in Berlin and former social secretary to Nancy Reagan, diplomatic sources and Indyk associates said.
Longtime Kerry staffer Frank Lowenstein will serve as deputy special envoy, Kerry said.