Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Amb. Indyk’s Speech

by Elliott Abrams
May 12, 2014


Last week Martin Indyk, former ambassador to Israel and now the top negotiator and adviser to Secretary of State Kerry in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, spoke to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His remarks can be found here.

In my view, his account leaned heavily and unfairly toward blaming Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu for the collapse of talks. Absent entirely was any consideration of the unfortunate American role — mishandling these negotiations for five years now. Indyk continued the near obsession of the administration with the issue of construction in settlements, and he provided some numbers that seem to me to misstate quite strikingly the facts on the ground.

My own view of Amb. Indyk’s speech was published at the web site of The Weekly Standard, and can be found here.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by EMT

    Dear Mr. Abrams, I have read your post, and the articles you referred to in it. I have followed Mr. Indyk from the beginning. If I may say so, Mr. Indyk is not right with regards to the settlements.
    The real question may just be – which country has the right to the land? The settlements are of second relevance, and the Palestinians should not worry about them. It is not their problem.

    Negotiations should pertain to the territory, not to the settlements. When Israel had the Sinai, after the war, it built an entire city in the Sinai. During the peace negotiations with Egypt, the discussion was never about the construction, but about the land. Israel relinquished the territory and destroyed the buildings. The discussion about settlements is not relevant, first they must agree about the land. The Palestinians have never possessed the land and have not proven otherwise. I would challenge even the UN. Even the famous Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb also known as Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, has never pretended that the land of Jerusalem belonged to him, even though he built the Omar Mosque and has chased away the crusaders.

    The Balfour Declaration of 1917 has clearly stated that the British Government would facilitate the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The British government also single-handedly handed over 77% of the entire Palestine territory to the King of Jordan, starting from the Jordan River and going east, having Syria to the north, Iraq to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south.

    The San Remo Resolution of 1920 “recognized the exclusive national Jewish rights to the Land of Israel under international law, on the strength of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the territory previously known as Palestine. The outcome of this declaration gave birth to the ‘Mandate for Palestine,’ an historical League of Nations document that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” (This document clearly establishes that Israeli settlements are completely legal.)

    If the Palestinians pretend that their presence on the land establishes their right to be a sovereign nation, I would mention that the Jews have lived for centuries in Arab lands, built cities and towns, created businesses, but never claimed any rights to the lands. Abd-El Nasser has chased away the entire Jewish population from Egypt, allowing them to carry along only one suitcase of belongings. Israel did not do that. The same Abd-El Nasser called the Arabs of Israel to leave the land and go to Arab countries, until he would liberate Palestine for them. Many followed Nasser’s call and live now everywhere. The Jews, who have been persecuted for centuries, often had to change country to survive and settled wherever conditions would allow it. They have never claimed their rights to the wealth and to the land they left behind in Arab countries, and they have not begged the UN for funds.

    Amb. Indyk should be ashamed of himself, that, as a Jew, he does not know Jewish history.

  • Posted by ah

    I would simply respond two points:

    1. You are right that Israel “did not do that” [let Jews carry one suitcase]. In fact, they were were worse, they did not even let the Palestinians carry one suitcase, they simply massacred them in their houses.

    2. I find it amusing that you claim to know more of Jewish history than Indyk. I would suggest the difference between you two is that – even though he has been staunchly and unabashedly pro-Israeli his entire career – he at least understands that history and the world are significantly more nuanced that the black and white world in which you live.

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