WASHINGTON (JTA) — A former U.S. ambassador to Israel said that the Jewish state must cease settlement activity in order to make progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
"It’s not going to be possible to engage the Arab states" in the peace process "if settlement activity continues," said Martin Indyk, who served two terms as ambassador during the Clinton administration.
"It is a critical issue," Indyk said, adding that stopping violence and terrorism was a critical issue for Palestinians.
Indyk and Jeremy Isaacharoff, deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Israel, discussed the Middle East before about 200 people at the opening session of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs annual Plenum in Washington, D.C., which brings together representatives of 14 national agencies and more than 100 local community relations councils.
Indyk also stressed the importance of U.S. and Israel pursuing a Syrian peace — noting that Turkey had been moderating indirect talks between the two countries for a while — because it would split Syria and Iran, put pressure on Hamas and "provide cover" for other Arab states to get involved in the process.
Isaacharoff said Israel must "continue our relationship" with the Palestinians and "develop a relationship with Syria and see how it goes." But he said that Israel needed to see "serious actions" from Syria — such as stopping its meddling in Lebanon and halting its supplying of arms to Hamas — before any progress could be made.