Kerry names Indyk to top peace negotiator post

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry named Martin Indyk as his special envoy on Middle East peace.

Kerry named Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel, to the post on Monday, hours before talks were to resume for the first time since 2010.

“Ambassador Indyk brings to this challenge his deep appreciation for the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Kerry said, “and a deep appreciation for the art of diplomacy in the Middle East.”

During the Oslo peace talks int he 1990s, Indyk served twice as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel, and once in the post he now re-assumes, top Middle East peace envoy.

The choice of Indyk, mooted in recent days, has already come under fire by critics of the peace process, on the left and the right, because of his association with the failures of the Oslo process.

Kerry alluded to this: “He knows what has worked and he knows what hasn’t worked,” he said, as Indyk laughed and winced.

Indyk, who came to the United States from Australia in 1982 to work for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and who helped found the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said his passion for Middle East peace had its roots in the time he spent in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when he saw how Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. secretary of state, shuttled non-stop to bring an end to the war.

Like Kissinger, Indyk told Kerry, “you took up the challenge when most people thought you were on a mission impossible.”

Talks are scheduled to resume Monday evening after six visits by Kerry to the region since he became secretary of state in February.

Assisting Indyk will be Frank Lowenstein, a longtime adviser to Kerry.

Indyk’s predecessor is David Hale, who last month was nominated by President Obama to be ambassador to Lebanon.