Kerry appoints Indyk to lead Mideast talks

Martin Indyk is “realistic” but hopeful about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Secretary of State John Kerry listens during a press conference at the State Department on Monday after announcing former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

A day after announcing a resumption of Israeli and Palestinian peace talks, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Monday in Washington he has appointed Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, to shepherd the talks.

Noting that a “reasonable compromise” is now possible, Kerry said Indyk is still “realistic” about the challenge ahead.

Indyk’s appointment to lead the talks – which will reportedly begin with an Iftar dinner with Israeli and Palestinian envoys at Kerry’s home in Washington to break the Ramadan fast – has the blessing of both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Chief negotiators Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, a longtime adviser to Netanyahu, make up the Israeli envoy while chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Abbas aide Mohammed Shtayyeh are representing Palestine.

"Going forward it is no secret this is a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago," Kerry said. "It is no 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."

Kerry announced earlier this month that the two sides had agreed to resume talks. This announcement was preceded by Israel’s decision to free 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners, which was a long-standing demand of Abbas.

The talks resume with a great deal of skepticism on both sides, and pro-Palestine advocates see the appointment of Indyk as a continuation of a process that has left them unsatisfied in the past.

“For people to believe that this is going to work, that this is going to be different from the last time, we need to see an American approach that differs from the previous approach, and Indyk is the opposite of that,” Yousef Munayyer, executive director of The Palestine Center, told Al Jazeera. “He is a representation, I think, of everything that's wrong with the U.S. as mediator. It's the same type of negotiation that panders to Israeli concerns and Israeli demands while ignoring the very legitimate grievances of the Palestinians.”

Recent changes in Netanyahu’s tone, however, leads others to believe there could be a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict.

"Netanyahu is talking about the threat of bi-nationalism in a way he never did," David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Peace told USA Today. "Israel doesn't want to be a bi-national state. It wants to be a Jewish state, and not a state that is de facto half Arab and half Jewish."

Source: Al Jazeera and wire services

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