David BedeinThe writer is director of Israel Resource News Agency and heads the Center for Near East Policy Research, author of Genesis of the Palestinian Authority and Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered.
Martin Indyk, is now the mediator between Israel and the PLO in negotiations that have continued in deadlock for the past six months
Indyk’s record with regard to the PLO should be examined.
Indyk is the one of the people who paved the way for Yassir Arafat and the PLO to gain armed control over most of the Palestinian Arab population.
In 1994, the respected journalist, Haim Shibi of Yediot Aharonot reported that in 1987, Indyk had lobbied more than 150 members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment to convince them that Israel should unilaterally withdraw from territories gained in 1967 Six Day War.
Indyk later oversaw every step of the Oslo process with that precise policy in mind – Israel giving up land that is vital to her defense.
This translated into action. Indyk, during his stint as US ambassador to Israel. did not hesitate to misrepresent the intentions and policies of the PLO while doing so, obfuscating the fact that the PLO never adhered to the basic commitment it made to cancel its covenant that calls for the eradication of the Jewish state.
A Case in Point
In September 1995, with the signing of the second Olso interim agreement at the White House, the U.S. Congress mandated that the U.S. would only be able to provide funds to the Palestinian Authority and provide diplomatic status to Arafat if the part of the PLO covenant calling for Israel's eradication was finally canceled.
On April 24, 1996, the PLO convened a special session of its Palestine National Council (PNC) to consider the subject of the PLO covenant cancellation.
We dispatched a Palestinian TV crew to cover that session, which turned out to be the only crew that filmed the event.
Our film crew brought back a videotape that showed a lively discussion, the conclusion of which was Arafat’s suggestion that the PNC simply create a committee to “discuss” the subject.
We rushed a VHS copy to Ambassador Indyk for comment, but he did not respond to that request for comment.
Instead, he chose to ignore the decision of the PNC session.
In a crucial moment that of wishful thinking - or worse - a moment that has lasted for 18 years, Indyk issued a report to President Clinton and to the U.S. Congress stating that the PLO covenant had been canceled.
This is what the US government was waiting to hear. As a result of Indyk’s report:
1.The US definition of the PLO as a terrorist organization was waived in 1996 - although not canceled- enabling the PLO to open up an official office and lobby in Washington, DC, the nation's capital.
2.Arafat was given a red carpet greeting at the White House on May 1, 1996, and the PLO was only then allowed to open that office in Washington. That office has remained open ever since..
However, on May 2, 1996. Hebrew University Professor Yehoshua Porat, a former leader in the leftist Peace Now organization who ran on slot 13 on the radical left wing Meretz party ticket in 1992,an expert in Palestinian Arab studies and fluent in Arabic, convened a press conference in which he shared protocols of the PNC session and the videotape which proved that Arafat never canceled the PLO covenant.
But the damage had been done. And Indyk did not rescind his report.
Thanks to the obfuscations of Martin Indyk, Arafat and the PLO received United States diplomatic recognition and official aid from the U.S., which continues to this day.
In December 1998, President Clinton, finally convinced that Indyk’s 1996 covenant report was wrong, arrived in Gaza, accompanied by Indyk, where they asked for a show of hands from Arabs who identified themselves as members of the PNC as to whether they wanted to cancel the PLO covenant and make peace with Israel.
They got a clear answer, however, the next day. Arafat’s personal spokesman, Yassir Abed Abbo, told the media that the PNC had, of course, not canceled any covenant.
And there is more.
In September, 2000, Dr. Uzi Landau, now a senior minister in the current Israeli government, who served then as the head of the Knesset State Control Committee (the equivalent of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Governmental Affairs), took the unusual step of filing a formal complaint against then-United States Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.
Landau quoted the September 16, 2000 report in the Guardian of London that “the U.S. Ambassador to Israel yesterday urged Israel to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians.”
Mr. Indyk said: “There is no other solution but to share the holy city… ” and Landau also noted that Ambassador Indyk was similarly quoted by the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz.
Landau went on to say that “the timing of the speech and the political context in which it delivered leaves no room for doubt that Ambassador Indyk was calling on the Government of Israel to divide Jerusalem. Indeed, the Guardian correspondent described the remarks as ‘a sharp departure from Washington orthodoxy in recent years.’”
Landau, who later served in a ministerial post in the Israeli government that negotiated sensitive relations between the U.S. and Israel, mentioned in his letter to Clinton that he wished to “strongly protest Ambassador Indyk’s blatant interference in Israel’s internal affairs and democratic process… I am sure you would agree that it is simply unacceptable for a foreign diplomat to involve himself so provocatively in the most sensitive affairs of the country to which he is posted."
"If a foreign ambassador stationed in the United States were to involve himself in a domestic American policy debate regarding race relations or abortion, the subsequent outcry would not be long in coming… Ambassador Indyk’s remarks about Jerusalem are an affront to Israel, particularly since he made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to divide."
"By needlessly raising Arab expectations on the Jerusalem issue, rather than moderating them, Ambassador Indyk has caused inestimable damage to the peace process..."
Landau added that “this is not the first time that the American Embassy in Israel has interfered in our internal affairs. In February, I wrote to you in the wake of media reports that Embassy officials were lobbying Israeli-Arab leaders regarding a possible referendum on the Golan Heights. My fear is that such interference in Israel’s affairs is rapidly becoming routine.”
Landau concluded his letter to Clinton with a “request that you recall Ambassador Indyk to the United States.”
Two months later, in early November 2000, Arafat’s Second Intifada terror campaign was getting underway. Indyk, however, was strongly condemning Israel’s military actions against Arafat’s forces. Indyk remarked that what the Israelis had to do was to get Arafat to act against the perpetrators of the violence, such as Hamas, Tanzim gangs and the Islamic Jihad diplomatically.
He did not mention that Arafat’s own Force 17 bodyguard, Preventive Security and other Palestinian Authority forces were responsible for a considerable portion of the deadly violence. Indyk tried never to hold Arafat responsible when Arafat’s forces carried out terrorist activities
In late November 2000, when Israel issued a “white paper” on intercepted intelligence from Arafat’s headquarters that showed documentary evidence that Arafat and his mainstream PLO gangs were indeed facilitating the campaign of terror, Indyk made a special trip to Jerusalem to demand that the Israeli government withdraw that report.
Indyk had just reported to the U.S. Congress that the Palestinian Arab groups organizing the terror campaign were NOT under Arafat’s control.
Eight months later, on May 21, 2001, in an address to Ben Gurion University, Indyk continued to take the position that Arafat and the PLO were the “U.S. colleagues in the War on Terror by telling Israel: “What you do is you get Arafat to act against the perpetrators of the violence, Hamas, Tanzim gangs, the Islamic Jihad and you get the Israeli government to hold back the Israeli army while he does so."
"But that requires a great deal of energy and commitment on Arafat’s part — in very risky circumstances to take on the very angry Palestinian street — and that requires a great deal of restraint and forbearance on the part of the government of Israel.”
Indyk's damaging legacy remains that he opened the door for US recognition of Arafat and the PLO, when he did not tell the truth to the American government about the PLO covenant, which was never canceled. The Palestinian Arabs deserved a better leader than terrorist Arafat.
When people in power err, whether purposely or unintentionally, other people suffer. If those in power do not admit their error, people continue to suffer.
Thanks to Indyk's untrue testimony 18 years ago:
-The PLO is live and well and ensconced in DC, without changing its Covenant to accept Israel's existence.
-And the US law that defines the PLO as a terror entity remains on the books, unapplied.
Thanks to the moment when Indyk seems to have fabricated or imagined the cancellation of the PLO covenant, a house of cards was erected, only to be resurrected uselessly over and over, with thousands buried in the ruins each time it falls. Now, it has once again collapsed.