Mideast Mediator Martin Indyk Draws Ire From Both Sides of Israeli Spectrum

Too Critical of Bibi for Some, Too Hawkish for Others

Straight to Point: Martin Indyk brings an ‘Australian bluntness’ to the job as Mideast peace mediator. Is that a good thing?
getty images
Straight to Point: Martin Indyk brings an ‘Australian bluntness’ to the job as Mideast peace mediator. Is that a good thing?

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 02, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Indyk did not make aliyah, but he maintained strong ties with Israel. He visits the country frequently as a board member of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, and is known to have close ties with top Israeli journalists and politicians. He has often said, especially when speaking to Jewish audiences, that he was first drawn to the Middle East “through my Jewish identity and my connection to Israel.”

Indyk’s life story sets him apart from American peace negotiators of the past. He was born in England, grew up in Australia and moved to the United States only after establishing himself as an academic and foreign relations expert in Sydney.

His first position in Washington was with AIPAC, where he served as deputy research director. In 1985 he took part in the pro- Israel lobby’s first and only foray into the research world and became the founding director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank focused on the region. The institute has since shifted away from its initial affiliation with AIPAC and no longer has formal ties to the lobby.

President Clinton brought Indyk, who advised him on Middle East issues during the presidential campaign, into his administration as director of Near Eastern affairs at the National Security Council, one day after Indyk received his American citizenship. In 1995 he was appointed ambassador to Israel, the first Jewish and the first foreign-born American representative posted there. Indyk served in Tel Aviv until September 1997 and made history once again in 2000, when he was appointed for another term as ambassador.

Working with the Israelis as ambassador at the height of peace negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria made Indyk a controversial figure in the eyes of Israeli leaders. Former prime minister Ehud Barak was so appreciative of Indyk’s work on the peace process that in an unusual move he asked Clinton to appoint Indyk to ambassador in Israel once again. But Netanyahu, when first elected prime minister, in 1996, sent word to Washington that he’d like to see Indyk replaced because he was regarded as too close to leaders of the Labor Party.

Colleagues and counterparts in the peace process believe it is Indyk’s style more than his ideology that provoked strong feelings among Israelis. “He’s not a peacenik, and he’s also not a Likudnik,” said an Israeli official who worked closely with Indyk in the past two decades. “He is a mainstream two-state solution guy.”

Robert Danin, a former colleague at the State Department’s Middle East team, said Indyk brings “an Australian bluntness” to his work. This quality, Danin believes, will allow the new negotiator to “cause some discomfort for both sides, which is something they need at times.”

Gilad Sher, who served as chief negotiator in Barak’s government, noted that Indyk’s greatest advantage entering his new role is that “his learning curve is flat.” Indyk, Sher said, worked on peace process issues continuously for two decades and will waste no time getting to know the parties and the issues.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.