U.S. Envoy Indyk Leaves Israel as Talks Falter, No Clear Plans for Return

U.S. and Israel seemingly on collision course over what happens if technocrats' cabinet is established in Ramallah.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Martin Indyk, former U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Special U.S. envoy Martin Indyk left Israel yesterday following Israel’s decision to suspend peace talks with the Palestinians, Haaretz has learned. Indyk is expected to take part in consultations in Washington, D.C. over coming weeks, but it is unclear when he and his team will be returning to the region.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to leave today for a week-long diplomatic trip in Africa. Only after his return will consultations begin in the State Department and White House regarding continued American involvement in the peace process.

Over the past months Indyk has been spending most of his time in Israel, holding long meetings every day with the Israeli and the Palestinian negotiating teams, together and separately. The assessment in Jerusalem is that as long as the talks are in hiatus, even if Indyk does come to the region, it would be for “maintenance” only.

Significant disagreement is developing between Israel and the United States over what will happen if a technocrats’ cabinet is established in the Palestinian Authority that acts in keeping with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ platform and the conditions of the Mideast Quartet – recognizing Israel, rejecting violence and honoring previous agreements.

The Americans believe that, under such circumstances, there would be no reason not to cooperate with the new government and renew the talks. However, Israel opposes any cooperation with the new government as long as all of its components and supporters, particularly Hamas, do not recognize Israel, reject terror and honor previous agreements.

If the technocrats’ government is established and meets the Quartet’s demands, Israel is expected to come under heavy pressure not only by the United States but also the European Union, to recognize the new government and cooperate with it. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton released a statement yesterday in which she expressed concern over the suspension of the talks, but supported the establishment of a Palestinian unity government.

However, Ashton also noted that the EU required the entire new Palestinian government to be committed to nonviolence, the two-state solution, and honoring previous agreements, including those that included recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said yesterday that the Oslo era was coming to a close and a new era, the “realistic era,” was beginning. Speaking at a foreign press briefing, Bennett said that Israelis and Palestinians had to learn to coexist. “Anyone looking at the reality understands that we will not reach a peace treaty in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Bennett said that Israel should annex Area C – the part of the West Bank under Israeli civil and security control, which is more than 60 percent of the West Bank. He even proposed giving full Israeli citizenship to 100,000 Palestinians he says are living in that area.

He said that Palestinians living in Area A (Palestinian civil and security control) and Area B (Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control) should be given “autonomy on steroids,” adding: “That is the best we can manage at present.”

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