A career encompassing almost all aspects of Middle East policy has this year landed Martin Indyk at the pinnacle of American efforts to resolve the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the United States special envoy to the peace talks, Indyk, 62, is tasked with a job few envy. It’s a task many before him have tried and failed, even under more promising circumstances.
But trying to translate Secretary of State John Kerry’s vision into a practical deal that can satisfy two skeptical leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Indyk has succeeded in instilling a sense of seriousness into a peace process that many have all but given up on.
Indyk’s life story is unusual for a top American diplomat. Born in England and raised in Australia, he moved to the United States as an accomplished Middle East scholar. He joined the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, but his credentials have never been enough to fend off criticism from right-wing circles accusing him of tilting too far toward the Palestinian side. Indyk went on to hold several senior positions in the State Department, serving twice as ambassador to Israel.
As special envoy, much of Indyk’s work is done behind the scenes. In the meetings held between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Indyk gently tries to prod, offer ideas and steer the sides clear of previous pitfalls.
Indyk’s work will be tested and evaluated in the spring, when the nine-month period set by Kerry for reaching an agreement will expire.