As Talks Kick Off, Recording Reveals U.S. Envoy Was Pessimistic About Peace

Army Radio interview with Martin Indyk reveals that, a year and a half ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel found it 'very hard to believe' parties would reach an agreement.

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Martin Indyk embraced his role as special Middle East peace envoy during a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday night, expressing optimism and determination, saying, "Middle East peace is a daunting challenge but one that I can't run away from." He then added: "Peace is possible."

However, as recently as a year and a half ago, Indyk took a rather pessimistic view of the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

When asked more than a year ago what he thought of the chances the two sides would resume negotiations, Indyk told Army Radio: "I'm not particularly optimistic because I think that the heart of the matter is that the maximum concessions that this government of Israel would be prepared to make fall far short of the minimum requirements that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] will insist on. So it may be possible to keep the talks going, which is a good thing but I find it very hard to believe that they will reach an agreement."

Meanwhile, Indyk on Monday praised Israeli and Palestinian efforts to resume negotiations under Kerry's auspices in Washington.

"Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas have made the tough decisions required to come back to the negotiating table," he said. "Perhaps we may yet be able to tell all those young Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for a different better tomorrow that, this time, we actually made it."

Earlier this year, Indyk said the time would be ripe for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had just been reelected, to try to turn a new page in relations with U.S. President Barack Obama. The main issue dividing the two countries right now is "the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Indyk said in an interview with Army Radio.

"Israel must realize that there is a partner for peace on the Palestinian side, Indyk said at the time. "There is a partner, just up the road in Ramallah. His name is Abu Mazen [Abbas], and he is committed to peace with Israel and to the two-state solution, and to preventing violence and terrorism.

"It's important for Israel, which holds almost all the cards in this situation, to find a way to deal with him, and to make peace with him, and it's not enough to put your head in the sand and to say that there is no partner and therefore we don’t have to worry about it anymore," Indyk added.

"If the message of [the Israeli elections], is that Israelis want normal lives, they cannot have a normal life until they resolve the Palestinian problem," the former ambassador concluded.

Martin Indyk on the CBS program 'Face the Nation.'Credit: Screen shot

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