By Ramzy Baroud
To understand how thoughtless the latest US "peace process" drive has become, one only needs to consider some of the characters involved in this political theatre. One in particular who stands out is Martin Indyk.
Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, was last July selected by Secretary of State John Kerry as special envoy for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Under normal circumstances, the selection appears rational. Former ambassadors often possess the impartial expertise needed to navigate challenging political landscapes in countries where they previously served. But these are not normal circumstances, and Indyk is hardly seen as a neutral figure.
As the US-sponsored peace process began to falter earlier this month, Kerry dispatched Indyk to Jerusalem. On 18 April, Indyk took on the task of speaking to both sides separately. International media depicted the event as a last-ditch effort to bridge gaps between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The visit took place a day after intense talks between Israeli and PA negotiators. “No breakthrough was made,” an official Palestinian source told AFP of the Thursday meeting.
It was not that any progress was expected since both sides are not talking about resolving the conflict. These deliberations were mostly concerned with deferring Kerry’s deadline for a "framework agreement", slated for 29 April.
The Americans want to maintain the charade of the talks for reasons other than achieving a lasting peace. Without a "peace process" the US would be denied an important political platform in the Middle East. Successive US administrations have presented themselves as the honest broker in the process.
Of course, it takes no genius to realize that the Americans have not been entirely honest in their dealings with both parties. In fact, the US is not a third party at all, but was and remains steadfastly in the Israeli camp. It used its political and financial leverage as a platform that allowed it to advance Israeli interests first, and their own interests second. Indyk is an example of this.
Indyk worked for the pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC in 1982. AIPAC is a right-wing outlet that has invested unlimited funds and energy into preventing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Its grip over the US Congress is so strong that some critics have suggested that Capitol Hill is in effect an occupied territory of Israel and its allies.
Indyk’s most important contribution to Israel was the founding of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) in 1985. This is another Israel lobby outlet that has damaged the credibility of US foreign policy in the Middle East by using "intellectuals" and "experts" as mediums.
Writing in Mondoweiss last year, Max Blumenthal recalled some interesting statements made by Indyk at J Street’s first annual convention in Washington DC in 2009. J Street is another Israeli lobby group that has distinguished itself as pro-peace, deceiving many into believing that AIPAC’s dominance in Washington is being challenged. However, its statements and the colourful past of its honoured guests and speakers indicate otherwise Indyk, as Israel lobbyist, was indeed among friends.
“I remembered stumbling into a huge auditorium to hear Indyk describe how he made ‘aliyah to Washington’ during the 1980s to ensure that US policy remained slanted in Israel’s favour, and go on to blame Yasser Arafat for the failure of Camp David,” Blumenthal recalled.
He quotes Indyk as saying: “I came to that conclusion 35 years ago when I was a student in Jerusalem and the Yom Kippur war broke out".
"I worked as a volunteer there in those terrible days when Israel’s survival seemed to hang in the balance and I witnessed the misery of war and the critical role that the United States in the form of Henry Kissinger played through activist diplomacy in forging a peace out of that horrendous war.”
These were not passing comments made by Indyk, but a reflection of the man’s undying commitment to a “peace” as envisioned by Israel – and this is the core of the ongoing crisis.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu never ceases to talk about peace, as does his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Even the Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett, leader of political party The Jewish Home and known for his bellicose rhetoric, is an ardent advocate of peace.
This is not a peace predicated on justice or envisaged by international and humanitarian laws. It is specifically-tailored peace that would allow Israel to maintain a colonial policy of land grabbing.
Unsurprisingly, this is the same kind of “peace” that the Americans envision. Kerry’s new peace agenda is not entirely a rehashing of old agendas. Yes, it is that too, but it almost completely embraces the once far-fetched ideas of Lieberman and rightwing groups, that of annexations - the Jordan Valley - and “land swaps” in exchange of main settlement blocs. When Lieberman floated these ideas a few years ago, he sounded like a deranged politician. Thanks to Kerry, it is now part of mainstream thinking.
So Indyk, who has dedicated a lifetime to securing an Israeli-style “peace”, is now branded as the one attempting to revive talks and exert pressure on both sides like any good "honest broker" would.
Indyk is not the only lobbyist-turned "peace" advocate. Dennis Ross, a well-known hawks for many years and a strong supporter of the disastrous Iraq war, served as a special Middle East coordinator under Bill Clinton, and was handpicked by President Barack Obama very early on to continue to the play the same role in the new administration. Aside from the diplomat’s strong links to neoconservatives, especially those involved in the now defunct pro-war group, the Project for the New American Century; he also served as a consultant to the same lobby club founded by Indyk, WINEP.
It was no coincidence of course that WINEP, as other pro-Israeli groups, has served as an advocacy platform for Israel and fashioned Israeli styled "peace makers". Interestingly, both Ross and Indyk blamed the Palestinians for the failure of previous peace talks. Blumenthal astutely highlighted Indyk’s J Street tirade blaming late PLO leader Arafat with “that big shit-eating grin of his” for the failings of the so-called Clinton peace parameters, despite the fact that Arafat had indeed accepted them.
Indyk reminisced: “I remember Shimon Peres saying to me at the time when Arafat had to decide whether to accept the Clinton Parameters, he said, history is a horse that gallops past your window and the true act of a statesman is to jump from the window on to a galloping horse. But of course Arafat let the galloping horse pass by leaving the Israelis and Palestinians mired in misery.”
Now, it’s Indyk, the die-hard Israel lobbyist, being sent along with another galloping horse outside Abbas’ window. We all know well how this is going to end, and we can imagine Indyk giving another speech at an AIPAC or J Street conference deriding Abbas for failing to jump.
- Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London)