October 8, 2013
US Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk is expanding his team as the U.S. prepares to intensify its role facilitating Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“We’ve agreed that those talks should now be intensified and American involvement should be increased to facilitate these discussions,” Indyk told the J Street conference last week. (Sept. 30). “Our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim agreement.”
To that end, he has grown his office’s ranks.
Julie Sawyer, a career civil service officer who most recently served as Persian Gulf director on the National Security Staff, has joined Indyk’s team as his traveling senior aide. Sawyer previously served as a Middle East advisor to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.
Sawyer joins a team that already includes deputy envoy and longtime Kerry confidante Frank Lowenstein. Ilan Goldenberg, a former Middle East advisor at the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff, has joined the office as chief of staff.
USAID deputy assistant Middle East administrator Hady Amr has joined the envoy’s team as an economics advisor.
Michael Yaffe, a career foreign service officer working on Middle East and arms control issues, has joined the envoy’s office to do international outreach with organizations such as the Arab League and Quartet. Yaffe came to the envoy office—next to the State Department’s Near East Affairs bureau—after serving as a professor and dean at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia center for strategic studies.
The Pentagon has seconded a serving officer to advise the team on security issues, in addition to the advice on security issues being provided to the mission by former Afghanistan and Centcom commander retired Marine Corps Gen. Jon Allen. Allen has been leading a security dialogue with the Israel Defense Forces to help address Israel’s security requirements, Indyk told J Street conference.
Indyk’s shop is expected to bring on someone to do outreach to the press, think tanks and the Hill, but sources would not yet disclose who that will be.
The growing ranks signal the seriousness of the negotiations effort, and the commitment to it by Secretary Kerry and President Obama, officials say.
“All core issues are on the table,” Indyk told the J Street conference last week. “Our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim agreement.”
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech Sunday at Bar Ilan University said negotiations were stuck over the Palestinian refusal to date to recognize Israel as a state of the Jewish people and to thereby give up the right of return, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made reassuring comments in meetings Monday with Israeli members of the Knesset.
Relatively little has leaked from the talks to date, which have been conducted with little fanfare or publicity in the region after Kerry formally relaunched talks in Washington in July and named Indyk as envoy.
(Photo of US envoy Martin Indyk addressing the J Street Gala September 30, 2013, by J Street.)