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Indyk’s career in the world of Middle East policy has been compared at times with that of Dennis Ross, the former longtime top peace process negotiator who, like many others who have served on the American negotiating team, is also Jewish. Both Ross and Indyk have experienced firsthand the ups and downs of the peace process, and both have strong ties to Israel. When President Obama put together his national security team, he brought on board Ross, who had advised him during the campaign. Indyk, who was close to Hillary Rodham Clinton, remained in the think tank world, heading Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, named after its main funder, Haim Saban, an Israeli American billionaire who has been a key contributor to the political careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Now it is Indyk’s turn to take the front seat in the administration’s efforts to advance the peace process. Former Israeli and American officials agree that Indyk could be more willing to apply pressure on Israel than Ross is. But a former American official stressed that Indyk “doesn’t pull his punches” from either side and “will be there to challenge both leaders.”
In a 2009 interview with a European Jewish website, Indyk tied his decision to take on a diplomatic career focusing on Israel to “that basic insecurity that is in the dark part of our hearts, that is a product of our history of thousands of years.” He noted that his wish, ever since his days in Jerusalem during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, was to “play some role in trying to make Israel safe because it would make me safe.”