Israel-Palestine Peace Envoy Martin Indyk: Talks 'Broke Down' When 'Abbas Shut Down'

Israel-Palestine Peace Envoy Martin Indyk: Talks 'Broke Down' When 'Abbas Shut Down'

Speaking to The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, Martin Indyk, the former U.S. envoy to the Israel-Palestinian peace process, claims there were many reasons the talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaderships failed, not least of which was the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was never seriously interested in reaching an agreement.

In mid-February, following months of feints and hesitations, Indyk claims that Abbas simply “shut down.” By the time he visited Obama a month later in March 2014, Abbas had, for all intents and purposes, “checked out of the negotiations.” Indyk said the PA president promised U.S. officials only that he would review their proposals, not that he would even respond to, let alone counter, them. In the end, Abbas was true to his word. He never did respond.

Indyk also remarked that the talks were suffused with a “deep, profound distrust” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas. “There is a deep loathing of each leader for the other that has built up over the years,” he said. “Loathing is maybe too strong a word for the way Netanyahu feels about Abbas, but it is certainly the way Abbas feels about Netanyahu,” Goldberg quotes Indyk. Abbas, Indyk claimed, rarely if ever referred to Netanyahu by name but only as “that man.”

Indyk doesn’t let Israel off the hook completely however, even if it means inverting the timeline of the actual events he was a part of. He claims that Israel’s announcement of new settlement construction plans compelled Abbas to take his own unilateral steps; this confuses, even reverses, the chronological timing of the event.

“The Israeli attitude,” said Indyk, “is that’s just planning… But for the Palestinians, everything that gets planned gets built… And the fact that the announcements were made when the prisoners were released created the impression that Abbas had paid for the prisoners by accepting these settlement announcements.”

Indyk objected to the notion that the talks were in vain or that their failure was preordained. There were points, he claimed, when it seemed as though progress was being made. Roughly six months into the direct negotiations, Indyk told Goldberg, Netanyahu had “moved into the zone of a possible agreement,” presumably prepared to offer what he called “serious concessions.”

That was the point at which “Abbas shut down” and decided to forge the contentious “unity deal” with the terrorist group Hamas. Abbas furthermore moved to scuttle all pretense of negotiating in good faith with Israel by signing the 15 international conventions he had promised not to sign as a precondition to holding the talks with Israel in the first place.