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Martin Indyk

Martin Indyk adressing the 10,000 delegates at the AIPAC conference in Washington
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak,

Washington-One of the most surprising statements made by  former US Ambassador Martin Indyk at the recent AIPAC [American Israel Political Affairs Committee] conference in Washington  before the entire plenum was a prediction that this time next year we would be talking about a "successful" U.S pre-emptive strike on Iran. 

The comment was surprising because Indyk didn't back it up with any explanation, and one can only be left wondering how it is that he arrived at this opinion. It was also surprising because I would not have predicted that President Obama would be likely to be a President who made a decision such as this(although some were surprised Obama made the decision to take out  Bin Laden). Other than Indyk, who is currently the Vice President of Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution, there was no one else at the AIPAC conference that I am aware of that made such a bold prediction.

The coment stuck in my mind when I read Jeffrey Goldberg's blog in Altantic Magazine on  May 25, where he wrote:"Amid all the noise about '67 borders comes this quiet little item, which could be  the biggest story of the week in the New York Times,   about Iran's nuclear intentions:

"The world's global nuclear inspection agency, frustrated by Iran's refusal to answer questions, revealed for the first time on Tuesday that it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon."

I asked one Middle East expert at the AIPAC  confernece about Indyk's comment and he responded " I've listened to Martin Indyk for the last 125 years and I've never much understood a thing he has said."

At the conference, Eric Cantor, Republican Majority Leader,U.S. House of Representatives, spoke aobut the  Iranian  threat: 

  "Recent developments in the region have moved Iran out of the headlines, but it is undeniable: the specter of a nuclear Iran looms larger than ever.

  "We must never take our eye off Iran. And that’s why Congress will soon pass the bipartisan Iran Threat Reduction Act, making it official U.S. policy to   prevent  Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

  "Plain and simple, if you do business with Iran, you cannot do business with America."

 Cantor added,

 "Nearly 7,000 miles away, Israel fights the same war we do. We share a common enemy in Iran and its terrorist proxies who seek nuclear weapons. 

 "So, my message to you this afternoon is this: If Israel goes, we all go. 

 " In order for us to win this great struggle, we must have the courage to see the world not as we wish it to be, but as it truly is. "


Following Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the United States Congress, Martin Indyk  made a statment  in  a web chat  on his website  which I think  is implicitly critical of  Netanyahu's speech, for not giving a generous enough offer for a two-state solution (Netanyahu said he would be generous in giving  Palestinians territory in the West Bank, but it would not include the major settlement blocks nor East Jerusalem ). Here is  what  Indyk wrote :

"Originally, some five months ago, when the idea of Netanyahu giving a speech was first broached, his idea was to present a new Israeli peace initiative. The Obama Administration was keen for him to do this since it's much easier for the U.S. to get behind an Israeli initiative than to pressure Israel to support an American initiative. The effort then focused on what Bibi would say in that "peace speech." Tony Blair among others was actively involved in trying to get him to express support for a negotiation that would be based on the 67 lines with agreed swaps. When Fatah and Hamas announced their unity deal, I think Netanyahu decided that he was off the hook. How could he be expected to take a peace initiative with Hamas? So the speech shifted from being a peace speech to being a PR speech. He secured the support of the Congress, but he already had that. His problem, and Obama's, is that he didn't say anything that would enable the U.S. to get any other country behind Netanyahu's approach. So, unfortunately, the process of isolating Israel will now proceed, and the U.S. will be isolated with Israel too."

Indyk  also recently has written after the AIPAC conference that Netanyahu can not expect to maintain a military presence on the Jordan valley long-term, citing the fact that Ehud Barak., when he was Prime Minister in Israel, in his negotiations with Arafat accepted less than what Netanyahu appears to be demanding regarding the Jordan Valley . Here's what Indyk wrote

"It's not realistic to expect that a deal that is supposed to end Israel's occupation will result in a perpetuation of that occupation. When Netanyahu told Abu Mazen in that short negotation that took place in August 2010 that he needed an Israeli army presence in the Jordan Vallery for "many decades," Abu Mazen told him he could keep his occupation and walked out. However, at the end of the Clinton Administration, Ehud Barak -- then PM now Defense Minister -- negotiated arrangements with Arafat's security people that would have provided for the following arrangements:

"-- an Israeli army presence in the Jordan Valley as part of an International/NATO force (something the Palestinians have said they would accept) for an interim period, perhaps five years, that would allow the Israelis to test the effectiveness of the security arrangements
"-- provisions for the Israeli army to reenter the West Bank and deploy in the Jordan Valley in the case of an emergency
"-- Israeli early warning stations in the West Bank that would give early warning of any prospective emergency.

"That remains the way to square Israel's legitimate security concerns with Palestinian sovereignty requirements."

On reading this, I wonder if  Indyk is giving a position similar to what the Obama administration's position will be on this point. Once Barak and Ehud Olmert  ,after him, committed Israel to a less robust position regarding the Jordan Valley, will it be impossible for  Netanyahu to ever  get the United States to agree to his position, which would see an Israeli presence on th e Jordan Valley for decades ?

Since Barak is now defense minister, one wonders what he has to say on this issue? Does he agree with Netantyahu's position now or does he  believe what he offered Arafat in earlier negotiations, which was less robust than what Netanyahu is now proposing? Has the instability in Jordan made Barak change his mind?

On a  different note, James Woosely, former director of the CIA, and Chairman of the Foundation for Defense of  Democracies, who was on the same panel as Indyk at the AIPAC conference, focused his remarks on  the situation in Syria, and said very clearly that in his estimation it was time for the U.S. to  try to do everything possible to take  Bashar Assad out--in other words, support  his ouster from power.(This in itself was interesting, because the Obama administration has not gone nearly that far, and has made no hint of doing anything dramatic in Syria, but seems to want to stay out of it.)  

Final note: One of the most memorable parts of  the speech  U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave  at  the AIPAC policy conference was a true story :"The following story illustrates Israel’s dilemma. A Palestinian woman from Gaza arrives at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for lifesaving skin treatment for burns over half her body. After the conclusion of her extensive treatment, the woman is invited back for follow-up visits to the outpatient clinic. One day she is caught at the border crossing wearing a suicide belt. Her intention? To blow herself up at the same clinic that saved her life. What kind of culture leads one to do that? Sadly, it is a culture infused with resentment and hatred. It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians’ and the broader Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the ‘67 lines. And until Israel’s enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.…”-- 


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.