Martin Indyk, U.S. envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, to step down

Martin Indyk, the former U.S. diplomat who has served for the past year as Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s point man in failed efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, is returning to his regular job at the Brookings Institution, Kerry announced Friday.

Kerry said in a statement that Frank Lowenstein, Indyk’s deputy, would take over as acting special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Indyk’s departure had been widely expected since the end of April, when talks collapsed after a nine-month deadline Kerry set last summer passed without progress.

A former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Indyk took a leave of absence from Brookings, where he served as vice president and director of foreign policy, to work with Kerry on the peace effort that has stymied U.S. foreign policy for decades.

As the latest round of talks fell apart, Indyk said that neither side had been prepared to make the compromises necessary to forge a deal. But he placed much of the blame for the failure on Israel, reportedly telling a Washington think tank last month that its settlements policy had had a “dramatically damaging” effect on the negotiations.

Kerry, in his first year as secretary, declared that he would make a robust effort to bring the two sides together and launched months of shuttle diplomacy, with regular visits to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The goal, supported by President Obama, was agreement on the parameters for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.

Indyk shepherded sessions between teams of negotiators in hopes they would reach a deal that could ultimately be carried to a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. The meeting never happened, and Kerry last month suspended his efforts while insisting the door remained open to resume the talks.

In a statement, Kerry praised Indyk for investing “decades of his extraordinary career to the mission of helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a lasting peace. It’s the cause of Martin’s career.” He said that the United States remained committed “to resuming the process when the parties find a path back to serious negotiations.”

British-born and Australian-raised, Indyk became a U.S. citizen in 1993. Prior to his work at Brookings, he was executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy before becoming the Clinton administration’s ambassador to Israel in 1995 and later serving as assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.

Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post.
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