Last week, the question was whether, or even if, the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks announced by Secretary of State John Kerry would take place.
They are slate dot start today in Washington, and with a new player at the table. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk was named to U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, in a move that had been anticipated for more than a week.
“Ambassador Indyk brings unique experience and insight to this role, which will allow him to contribute immediately as the parties begin down the tough, but necessary, path of negotiations,” President Barack Obama said in a prepared statement following Kerry’s announcement Monday of Indyk’s appointment.
Kerry has planned initial meetings for Monday, July 29, and Tuesday July 30 in Washington with representatives from both sides — Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, and Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh.
“As Secretary Kerry announced on July 19 in Amman, Jordan, the Israelis and Palestinians had reached agreement on the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks. They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural workplan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”
Psaki said the secretary has “commended” the courage Netanyahu and Abbas to resume talks.
“Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point. We are grateful for their leadership,” she quoted Kerry as saying.
The initial talks come days after Israel agreed to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture. The move is meeting praise and criticism in the Jewish state.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered at Netanyahu’s bureau on Sunday to protest the planned release of the prisoners ahead of the renewed peace talks. The prisoner release was approved 13-7 by Israel’s cabinet.
“The prime minister is encouraging terror by releasing terrorists and killers,” Israeli Channel 2 news quoted a demonstrator as saying Sunday as dozens carried pictures of loved ones killed in terror attacks.
A seasoned Middle East negotiator, Indyk returns to the State Department after a stint as Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Born in London and raised and educated in Australia, Indyk, who is Jewish, is a naturalized American citizen.
He was Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, founding executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a research institute specializing in analysis of Middle East policy and has taught at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, and the Department of Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.