Indyk: Settlements pushed Palestinians to end talks

(JTA) — Martin Indyk, the former chief U.S. envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, said Israeli settlement activity caused the Palestinians to walk away from negotiations.

Indyk, who quit his post as peace envoy last week after the breakdown of talks, made his remarks in an interview published Thursday by The Atlantic.

“The Israeli attitude is that’s just planning,” Indyk said in reference to announcements of construction plans in settlements and in eastern Jerusalem that Israel made during talks. “But for the Palestinians, everything that gets planned gets built.”

Indyk said the announcements, which coincided with Israel’s agreed-upon release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners in several installments, undermined Abbas’ standing.

“The fact that the announcements were made when the prisoners were released created the impression that Abu Mazen had paid for the prisoners by accepting these settlement announcements,” Indyk said, using Abbas’ nickname. As a result, Abbas suddenly “shut down,” Indyk said.

By the time Abbas visited Washington in March, he “had checked out of the negotiations,” repeatedly telling U.S. officials that he would “study” their proposals, Indyk added.

Indyk also said Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deeply disliked one another.

“There is a deep loathing of each leader for the other that has built up over the years,” Indyk said.

He later clarified, saying, “Loathing may be too strong for how Netanyahu feels about Abu Mazen. But it’s certainly the way Abu Mazen feels about Netanyahu. He refers to him as ‘that man.’ “

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