Indyk will likely guide still-uncertain talks

(JTA) — Former United States diplomat Martin Indyk will likely be the American envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — though two senior Palestinian officials cast doubt on whether talks were set to begin.

Two Palestinian Authority spokesmen, Yasser Abed Rabbo and  Nabil Abu Rudeineh, denied that the PA had agreed to participate in formal final-status negotiations with Israel, according to the Times of Israel.

The denial seems to undercut an announcement on Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel and the PA “reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming negotiations.” Kerry had announced that envoys from both sides would meet in Washington this week to begin negotiations.

But this week’s meeting, according to the PA spokesmen, will only be a preliminary step toward resuming formal negotiations. Abu Rudeineh said that in order for the PA to enter talks, Israel must agree to freeze settlement expansion and negotiate on the basis of its pre-1967 border.

As a goodwill gesture leading up to negotiations, Haaretz reported that Israel will release 82 Palestinian prisoners, all of whom began serving their terms before Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Should talks get off the ground, the New York Times reported that former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk would be their U.S. envoy. Indyk served as ambassador to Israel in the mid-1990s and again from 2000 to 2001, during intensive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He now serves as foreign policy director at the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think tank.