Indyk: Talks collapsed because sides lacked urgency

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed because neither party sees an urgency in making peace, Martin Indyk, the chief U.S. negotiator, said.

“Where is this sense of urgency today?” Indyk said in a May 8 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, his first public remarks since the talks were formally suspended last month.

“One problem that revealed itself in these past nine months is that the parties, although both showing flexibility in the negotiations, do not feel the pressing need to make the gut-wrenching compromises necessary to achieve peace,” Indyk said. “It is safe to say that if we, the U.S., are the only party that has a sense of urgency, these negotiations will not succeed.”

In unusually blunt terms, Indyk excoriated both sides for bad faith.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu was understandably infuriated by the outrageous claims of Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator no less, that the prime minister was plotting the assassination of the Palestinian president,” Indyk said. “And Abu Mazen was humiliated by false Israeli claims that he had agreed to increased settlement activity in return for the release of prisoners.” Abu Mazen is the byname of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Indyk, who founded the Washington Institute in 1985, said he believed the Israeli settlement building announcements were intended to sabotage the peace process.

Not only that, he said settlements posed a “mortal” danger to Israel, leading it into an “irreversible binational reality.”

“Rampant settlement activity — especially in the midst of negotiations — doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations; it can undermine Israel’s Jewish future,” Indyk said. “If this continues, it could mortally wound the idea of Israel as a Jewish state — and that would be a tragedy of historic proportions.”

Separately, Susan Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, met in Jerusalem and Ramallah with Netanyahu and Abbas.

Rice pledged continued U.S. funding for the Palestinians, an apparent pushback against calls in Congress to cut funding. However, in an allusion to unity talks between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Rice also warned that to receive assistance, Palestinian governments must recognize Israel and abide by previous peace agreements.

“She reiterated U.S. policy that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties,” said a White House statement. — jta