Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to name Martin Indyk as the U.S. Representative to the Israel-Palestinian peace negotiation. Indyk has been around this peace-talk track before.
He belongs to a small group of Jewish diplomats who have specialized in Middle East negotiations. The same names come up with every new effort to reconcile Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
This time the key player is Indyk. Who is he?
Indyk (shown above with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) began his Washington career as an AIPAC staffer, served as executive director of an AIPAC think tank offshoot -- the Washington Institute of Near East Policy -- and then served two short terms as the first foreign-born U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
Indyk was born to a Jewish family in London, England. The family moved to Australia where Indyk grew up in the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag. He graduated from the University of Sydney in 1972. He received his PhD in international relations from the Australian National University in 1977. Indyk emigrated to the United States and later gained American citizenship in 1993.
Indyk's pro-Israel credentials are spelled out by Phillip Weiss, writing in Mondoweiss:
"He wrote (in the book Innocent Abroad 4 years ago) that: 'I was first drawn to the Middle East through my Jewish identity and connection to Israel.' Indyk now works at Brookings for a man he calls his 'godfather,' Haim Saban. Saban has said that his 'greatest concern' is to protect Israel.
"Indyk was described in 1992 by a former AIPAC president as AIPAC's political asset in the Clinton campaign. After the spectacular failure of Camp David negotiations that he helped conduct in 2000, Indyk was characterized by former Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Dahlan as having a pro-Israel bias and 'advanced negative attitudes toward Palestinians.'
"While former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said that Indyk was 'partial, biased, pro-Israel' and defended Israeli settlements more than Israelis."
And this is the man in whom we are to place our trust as Kerry's point man for peace?
When Kerry was engaged in his recent travels to the region, he tried to make the case that this set of negotiations would be the final opportunity to bring the two opposing sides together. Now the news from Palestine is that President Mahmoud Abbas is satisfied that Kerry and Indyk will be fair in reaching an agreement.
How could Abbas possibly reach such a conclusion? There is nothing emanating from the Israeli side that would suggest that Benjamin Netanyahu can bring his right-wing government to accept a peace agreement anywhere near any reasonable position of fairness.
Is the Palestinian Authority president placing his trust in the upcoming negotiations because of specific promises? Word from Israel is that it is prepared to release some longtime Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom Israel classifies as "heavyweights," whatever that could possibly mean.
Kerry has also dropped hints of financial incentives to the PA from outside investors who are eager to invest in the Palestinian economy.
That is the old "investment not divestment" trope which has been a part of Protestant church discussions in recent years. It sounds nice but where is the meat? Where are the roadblocks opening up; where are the tough decisions on Israel's illegal settlements?
Richard Silverstein is sceptical of the usual Israeli ploy to release Palestinian prisoners as a sign of good will. He writes: