WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State John Kerry named Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, as his special envoy on Middle East peace.
Kerry appointed Indyk 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 in the 1990s, Indyk served twice as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel and once as top Middle East peace envoy — the post he is assuming anew.
The choice of Indyk, mooted in recent days, already has 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.
Alluding to the Oslo shortcomings, Kerry said, “He knows what has worked and he knows what hasn’t worked,” he said, as Indyk laughed and winced.
Indyk said his passion for Middle East peace had its roots in the time he spent in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the shuttle diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. secretary of state, 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. Kerry has visited the region six times since becoming secretary of state in February.
Assisting Indyk will be Frank Lowenstein, a longtime adviser to Kerry.
Indyk came to the United States from Australia in 1982 to work for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He helped found the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Indyk’s predecessor is David Hale, who last month was nominated by President Obama to be ambassador to Lebanon.