Can Martin Indyk Bring Peace to the Middle East?

If anyone knows the sting of near-successes collapsing in defeat (2004 Yankees, anyone?), Martin Indyk does. Formerly President Clinton’s senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council (1993-’95), the first Jewish American and foreign-born ambassador to Israel (’95-97, 2000-’01) and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the Department of State (1997-2000), Indyk was party to both the 1993 Oslo Accords and then the Camp David Accords in 2000. Both sets of peace talks dashed high hopes for a final and lasting peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors.

Martin Indyk, currently Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, has been appointed by Secretary of State John Kerry to shepherd Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which began Monday in Washington.

Born in the UK and educated in Australia, Indyk received his B.A. in Economics at the University of Sydney and then his Ph.D. in International Relations from Australia National University. His thesis focused on the role of the United States in achieving peace between Israel and its neighbors. In an interview with Leadel.net, Indyk discusses the impetus for his involvement in the peace process: his experience volunteering in a kibbutz during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Besides his resume of government and think-tank experience, who is Martin Indyk, and after the multiple failed attempts at peace, is he the man for the job?

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a piece of the international relations puzzle that has confounded political leaders, especially U.S. foreign policy makers, for decades, the overarching theme being “almost-but-no-cigar” attempts at peace, the last of which collapsed in 2008, consistently interrupted by violence. Indyk’s résumé reads like an ardent Israel-supporter, so is it wise for Kerry to chose a negotiator with clear biases?

Though criticized by Norman Finkelstein in an interview with Democracy Now for some of the information in his book Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy, Indyk has called the peace process his “life’s mission." He considers it almost divine intervention that he managed to be present for both sets of peace talks, and, this author imagines, views this as another, perhaps his last, chance. This is an enormous amount of pressure, and it is also this author’s view that Indyk is a good choice: he is personally invested in peace in every sense of the word, seeing peace and security for Israel as connected with his own personal safety as a Jew. I can hardly envision a greater source of motivation than personal security, and the fulfillment of one’s lifelong goals.

Hopefully, in Indyk’s case if nowhere else, the third time’s a charm.