The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simply not a priority for the Biden administration and the American president views it as Israel’s problem to solve, not his, says Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a prominent negotiator in the Middle East peace process during the 1990s.
Speaking on the latest episode of the Haaretz Weekly Podcast, Indyk discussed Israel’s announcement of more than a thousand housing units in West Bank settlements, and said Biden isn’t interested in having a “fight” with Israel over this issue.
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Listen to the full interview, starting at time code 11:10.
“Biden was part of the Obama administration that got Israel to agree to a settlement freeze,” Indyk said. That freeze, which lasted 10 months, didn’t lead to a breakthrough in the peace process at the time “because the Palestinians wouldn’t come to the table anyway.”
Indyk said the current approach in Washington is that settlements, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, is “Israel’s problem.” He added: “We can help Israel solve it, and it may later become our problem,” but in between Iran, China and climate change, Biden has “lots of other priorities” to focus on at the moment.
The former ambassador also discussed his recently released book “Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy,” which details with the former secretary of state’s shuttle diplomacy efforts after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Indyk said that Kissinger, unlike some of his successors, didn’t strive to achieve a conflict-ending agreement, but rather a “gradual, step-by-step process” that would bring Israel and the Arab states closer to peace. “Process ended up being a dirty word,” Indyk observed, “but for Kissinger it was the essence of peacemaking.”
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According to Indyk, “Kissinger was deeply skeptical of efforts to end the conflict. His attitude toward peace was that it was a fine objective, but the pursuit of it with too much passion and energy is dangerous. It could achieve the opposite: destabilize the existing order and lead to war.”
In his conversation with host Amir Tibon, Indyk noted that the Abraham Accords, signed last year between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, proved Kissinger’s long-standing view that “the Arabs would grow exhausted of fighting Israel and decide to recognize it.” Kissinger himself, who is now 98, recently called the agreements “very significant” and expressed hope that the next country to make peace with Israel would be Saudi Arabia.
Indyk also discussed Kissinger’s Jewish identity and how it impacted his Middle East diplomacy. The former secretary of state was concerned that Arab rulers would view him as biased toward Israel because of it, while Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir spoke to him like a “wayward nephew” and gave him “guilt trips” when he made demands that weren’t to her liking.