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August 21, 2013

In Blog

Israelis, Palestinians at odds over U.S. envoy’s role in peace talks

Palestinians want Martin Indyk actively involved in negotiations, while Israel says his presence will only impede efforts.

By Barak Ravid | Aug. 21, 2013 | 5:09 PM
Martin Indyk

Martin Indyk Photo by Nir Kafri

A dispute erupted in the last two weeks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on the nature and level of involvement that U.S. envoy Martin Indyk should have in peace talks.

An Israeli source noted that the Palestinians are claiming that Indyk should be actively involved in talks and should be sitting at the negotiating table. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Indyk this week, asked him to be more involved. “The U.S. role shouldn’t be limited to supervision,” Abbas told Indyk.

The Israelis, on the other hand, expressed reservations about Indyk’s active involvement, claiming that these are direct, bilateral negotiations. According to the Israeli position, the presence of an American representative will only impede the talks and lead Palestinians to harden their positions. Israel is willing that Indyk participate in some of the meetings, but only if both sides consent.

Indyk’s involvement and impact in the last three rounds of talks has been negligible. During the first round in Washington three weeks ago, Indyk was present at some of the meetings, but was not involved in the last two held last week in Jerusalem. On Tuesday, Indyk did not participate, in spite of the fact that he has been in Israel for the last 10 days. He has been spending his time in separate meetings with Israelis and Palestinians.

During the press conference held by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington three weeks ago when he launched the resumption of talks, he defined Indyk’s role as a facilitator and not as a mediator. However Kerry also clarified that Indyk will be actively involved in negotiations, will sit in the negotiating room and will even submit mediation proposals as necessary.