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Martin Indyk says he ‘made aliyah to Washington’ to save Israel

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Martin Indyk, the new U.S. peace process envoy, speaking at the Aspen Institute in March 2009. (Photo: The Aspen Institute/Flickr)

Martin Indyk’s selection by Secretary of State John Kerry as the Special Envoy for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority summoned memories of an appearance I witnessed at J Street’s first annual convention in Washington DC in 2009. I remembered stumbling into a huge auditorium to hear Indyk describe how he made “aliyah to Washington” during the 1980’s to ensure that US policy remained slanted in Israel’s favor, and go on to blame Yasser Arafat for the failure of Camp David.

I searched out the video of Indyk’s J Street appearance and confirmed my memories. In a candid address, speaking without notes, Indyk told his audience how as a young man studying in Jerusalem, he wound up volunteering to assist Israel during the 1973 war. He witnessed Israel pushed to the brink by a coordinated Egyptian-Syrian attack designed to recover the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Nixon and Kissinger’s generous emergency shipment of arms, which enabled Israel to push back the Arab armies, clarified for Indyk the role America should play in the Middle East. It was then that he decided on a career as an inside-the-Beltway operator.

“And that is why I chose to make aliyah to Washington,” Indyk half-jokingly declared.

Why Two States? Why Now? – American Perspective from J Street on Vimeo.

Here are excerpts of Indyk’s remarks. He began by stating that the only way to guarantee “Israel’s security and well-being” was to work for peace:

I came to that conclusion 35 years ago when I was a student in Jerusalem and the Yom Kippur war broke out, I worked as a volunteer there in those terrible days when Israel’s survival seemed to hang in the balance and I witnessed the misery of war and the critical role that the United States in the form of Henry Kissinger played through activist diplomacy in forging a peace out of that horrendous war.

It was from that point on — as some of you would know I was an Australian in those days — that I became convinced that the US role in helping Israel to achieve peace was absolutely critical and remains today the sine qua non, without which nothing else in the end will become possible. And that is why I chose to make aliyah to Washington [laughter from crowd], and to work to try to understand and work on us diplomacy towards resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Indyk’s “aliyah” came in the form of a position at the Israel lobby group AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) as a deputy researcher in 1982. Three years later, he and Dennis Ross  founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an AIPAC-linked think tank. Ross’s first paper for WINEP, which he published in 1985, demanded the appointment of “a non-Arabist Special Middle East envoy” who would not “feel guilty about our relationship with Israel and our reluctance to force Israeli consensus.”

At the personal recommendation of the Israeli-American media tycoon Haim Saban, who raised $3.5 million for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, and later paid for the construction of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Clinton appointed Indyk as US Ambassador to Israel. Ross joined the administration as Special Envoy to the Middle East, precisely the position he had dreamed up in his WINEP position paper. Almost two decades later, Indyk has returned to public life in Ross’s former role.

At J Street, Indyk described Yitzhak Rabin and Clinton’s approach to the peace process as his template for negotiations. He recalled Rabin declaring, “What we need is separation, your people and my people, we need separation, not out of hatred but out of respect.” Indyk explained, “That was Yitzhak Rabin’s vision and his purpose in trying to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians… The challenge of Americans is to return to that process.”

Beyond the absurd logic that defines forced ethnic separation as “respectful,” Rabin was in fact a hard separationist who promised Israelis he would “take Gaza out of Tel Aviv.” After agreeing to the Oslo Accords, Rabin ordered the mass revocation of Palestinian work permits inside Israel, trapping hundreds of thousands inside cities and villages. He inaugurated plans for a barrier separating “Israel proper” from the West Bank, laying the groundwork for the separation wall constructed under the watch of Ariel Sharon, and he presided over the installation of the first sections of fencing around the Gaza Strip. Though few of Rabin’s hagiographers will admit it, his policies of hard separation set the stage for the Second Intifada, driving occupied Palestinians deeper into economic misery and ghettoization.

Speaking before J Street, Indyk placed the blame for the bloodshed of the Second Intifada squarely on Yasser Arafat’s shoulders. He derided the late PA chairman as having “that big shit-eating grin of his” and assailed him for refusing to accept the Clinton Parameters, omitting the fact that Arafat ultimately accepted them with grave reservations and questions:

I remember Shimon Peres saying to me at the time when Arafat had to decide whether to accept the Clinton Parameters, he said, history is a horse that gallops past your window and the true act of a statesman is to jump from the window on to a galloping horse. But of course Arafat let the galloping horse pass by leaving the Israelis and Palestinians mired in misery.

Indyk is back at the center of heavily ballyhooed negotiations that seem doomed from the start. Is he preparing to blame the Palestinians again?

Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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35 Responses

  1. Walker on August 1, 2013, 11:02 am

    Great background.

  2. Chu on August 1, 2013, 11:59 am

    Mr. INDYK: We are the indispensible partner. They can’t get to an agreement without us. But they are the ones that have to make the ultimate decisions. I’m fond of quoting Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, who says that history is a horse that gallops past your window. And the true act of a statesman is to jump from the window onto that galloping horse.

    -one of the cornier comments of Shimon Peres, that Indyk childlishly parrots. You could write a novel with all the phrases the Israeli government & AIPAC have used to blame the Palestinians for inaction reagarding the ‘peace process’. ‘We eat the pizza while we discuss how to split up the pizza’ was a great analogy to this mess.

    Indyk is another insincere actor that the state of Israel will employ as they continue to steal Palestinian resources and lands in the name of security. I think the media would take this seriously if Someone like Richard Goldstone was substituted in place of a a hack like Indyk. I get the feeling Indyk is another version of Carlos Danger, an ego-driven sociopath that pretends that our problems will be fixed with him at the helm.

    • amigo on August 2, 2013, 8:07 am

      “You could write a novel with all the phrases the Israeli government & AIPAC have used to blame the Palestinians for inaction reagarding the ‘peace process’.”.

      Slightly off topic .There is now an updated version of the old mantra, “Wipe Israel off the map.

      “The report quoted Rohani as saying: “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”

      This was translated to.

      “Iran’s Rohani: Israel is an ‘old wound’ that should be removed “.


      Looks as if Rohani handed the zios an early xmas gift.

  3. Donald on August 1, 2013, 12:19 pm

    But, but, he’s got so much experience and is respected by all.

    Seriously, I suspect the claim that Kerry will solve the problem in 9 months and that this is the last chance for a 2SS contains an underlying threat, which is that the Palestinians had better go along with whatever the US and Israel propose, or the US will blame them, and Israel will get to do what it wants. It’s certainly not going to be the case that if the talks fail the US will abandon Israel. The pundits will say that the US tried to be an honest broker and the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity and now there won’t be any more.

  4. Justpassingby on August 1, 2013, 12:55 pm

    Lol a man fighting WITH Israel in 1973 is now the US rep for the peace talks?! And people still have the nerve to call US an unbiased negogiator?!

  5. Walker on August 1, 2013, 1:01 pm

    Rana Baker has a good column about the peace talks’ prospects in today’s Guardian.

    She mentions a fact that has been ignored by the media and our political leadership for decades:

    Edward Said must be turning in his grave. He spent a decade criticising the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, demonstrating, in every article he wrote about the matter, how life had only worsened in the occupied territories after every round of negotiations between the “two sides”.

    There is indeed something wrong with the terminology to begin with, for there aren’t two sides to the talks, there is only one – the Israeli side.

  6. James Canning on August 1, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Is Indyk saying he relocated to Washington to prevent a deal on Israel/Palestine?

    • seanmcbride on August 1, 2013, 4:01 pm

      James Canning,

      Is Indyk saying he relocated to Washington to prevent a deal on Israel/Palestine?

      The Israel lobby (liberal Zionists in particular, like Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross and Aaron David Miller) managed through sheer brass several decades ago to seize control of American negotiations on Israeli/Palestinian issues — with the clear objective (which should by now be obvious) of obstructing the achievement of any agreement. The game (charade) goes on endlessly, while Israel builds more settlements.

      How have they got away with it? They keep promising results that they never deliver, and better heads in the US national security community are afraid to challenge the lobby that backs them up.

      • seanmcbride on August 1, 2013, 4:16 pm

        The Israeli government has burrowed deeply into the American government — in the NSC, the Defense Department, the State Department, the Justice Department, the Congress, all the key congressional committees, the FBI, DHS, the intel community, etc.

        The US government is no longer able to operate independently of the Israeli government concerning matters of American foreign policy in the Mideast. Israel enjoys numerous vectors of control and influence over nearly all the key players in the American government — from the president on down.

      • James Canning on August 2, 2013, 4:05 pm

        Clearly, Aipac and its many stooges in the US Congress want Israel to keep as much of the West Bank as it wants, no matter how much damage this does to the national security interests of the American people.

      • seanmcbride on August 3, 2013, 9:57 am

        There is no reason to think that Martin Indyk cares the slightest about the American interest — his emotions revolve entirely around the Israeli interest — he is a committed and self-absorbed ethnic nationalist.

        What is becoming increasingly clear is the degree to which ethnic and religious nationalism of all varieties is dangerously incompatible with the best values and interests of Americanism. The Martin Indyks, Jeffrey Goldbergs and David Brookses in American politics have boldly marched out on a very thin limb indeed — one that could break at any moment.

  7. James Canning on August 1, 2013, 3:23 pm

    Let’s remember the 1973 Arab-Israel war was direct result of Israel’s refusal to get out of the Sinai.

    How many hundreds of billions of dollars did that war cost American consumers, in terms of higher oil prices?

    • mondonut on August 1, 2013, 5:06 pm

      James Canning says: Let’s remember the 1973 Arab-Israel war was direct result of Israel’s refusal to get out of the Sinai.
      The Yom Kippur war was the direct result of Egyptian war-mongering, an obsessive Arab Shame complex and Soviet backed attacks on weakly defended Israeli positions.

      • James Canning on August 2, 2013, 4:02 pm

        @Mondonut – – Israel REFUSED to get out of the Sinai. Correct?

      • MHughes976 on August 2, 2013, 6:16 pm

        There would surely have been no war in 73 had Israel agreed or even indicated readiness to agree to evacuate Sinai.

      • James Canning on August 3, 2013, 1:45 pm

        Correct, surely. Syria would have been annoyed, but unable to take on war with Israel without Egypt.

      • Shingo on August 2, 2013, 9:11 pm

        on weakly defended Israeli positions

        …in the Sinai

    • Sumud on August 1, 2013, 9:23 pm

      Likely the overall cost is in trillions, not billions. See this now 10 year old report from WRMEA:

      The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion

      • James Canning on August 2, 2013, 4:01 pm

        Bravo, Sumud. And costs to American taxpayers of the Israel/Palestine problem by now must be $5 trillion.

      • American on August 2, 2013, 6:04 pm

        Havent seen nothing yet , wait till the whole Isr ponzi scheme goes down.

        ”This is a major embarrassment for Netanyahu,” said Abraham Diskin, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “While the domestic political fallout will be limited, it will likely raise questions internationally about his handling of the economy.”
        The cost of protecting Israeli bonds against default surged to the highest level in two weeks. Five-year credit-default swaps rose 0.66 basis points to 111.66, the highest since July 15, according to prices compiled by CMA. The credit risk is set for a 3.66 basis-point increase this week, the biggest since the five days ending June 21″>>>>

        I dont know how Isr is ever going to pay off on all their bonds anyway. I-Firstdom at the US SEC did something years ago beyond bizaare in allowing Isr to sell their Jubille bonds in US dollar valuation instead of their own currency valuation. These are the bonds they are now selling all over the US to every state and employees retirement fund they can find.
        Considering the fact Isr is 70% export dependent and has to keep their shekel devalued to keep their export edge–to say nothng of the fact that Isr has had 2 different currenies that bit the dust in their 65 years and Isr cant print US dollars like the Fed—where are they going to get the tens of billions ‘in dollars’ to pay off these bonds? They would have to print a gazillion new shekels to buy dollars to pay it off.
        But if they did that then their shekel would fall thru the floor and Isr businesses would need a wheelbarrow of shekels to buy or import a ballpoint pen or any materials they needed from abroad. Isr would be back where they were in 1985 wth 400% inflation and demanding a US 2 billion extra aid package just as they did then and likely also ‘demanding the US pay off all their bond obligations for them on all the US pension funds they have scammed with Isr bonds.

        Increasing BDS would help bring this default about—less Isr trade, less they can use foreign currency to play the pea shell money game, they have less foreign currency to trade and to hedge with the shekel.
        A default would cost US pensions billions but it would end Israel in the US no matter what the US did—–whether it used taxpayer money (borrowed from China that is) to cover it or just let the pension funds lose—it would be the blow up of all blowups for Isr’merica. …more outrage at it than the WS bailout. Israel has never paid off a single debt anyway…any US loans that weren’t converted to ‘grants were ‘extended’ meaning Isr pays only interest on those and never made a single repayment of principal on any of them.
        I doubt they ever intend to honor those bonds—with the attitude that the world ‘owes’ them they have no problem with stiffing the US or anyone else.

        Wthout a constant and I mean ‘constant ‘ infusion ‘ of aid and without ever increasing exports this ponzi scheme would and no doubt will eventually blow sky high anyway.

    • Citizen on August 2, 2013, 2:35 am

      Addendum by If Americans Knew:
      1973 War (Known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War)*

      Egypt and Syria continued to demand the return of the land taken by Israel in 1967. However, attempts at diplomacy failed, and eventually Egyptian President Anwar Sadat warned that war would come if Israel did not return Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights. But Kissinger and the Israelis dismissed him, as did the US media.

      These were strategic errors and they contributed directly to the war that broke out on 6 October 1973 with coordinated attacks by Egypt and Syria against Israeli troops stationed on occupied territory. No fighting actually took place on Israeli territory, but the shock of the attacks often made it seem in the US media that Israel itself was under siege.

      Israel had considered its position unassailable, but a brilliant strategy known as “Operation Badr” resulted in a stunning success. Egyptian planners had feared that the attack might cost as many as 30,000 casualties, but at the end of October 6, Egyptian losses were only 208 dead. As military historian Trevor N. Dupuy summed up: “The combination of thorough and efficient planning, careful security, the achievement of complete surprise, and the highly efficient execution of carefully prepared plans, resulted in one of the most memorable water crossings in the annals of warfare. As with the planning, no other army could have done better.”

      Demands instantly arose for a massive supply effort by the United States to Israel. President Nixon at the time already was deeply involved in the spreading watergate scandal and much of the pressure from the Israeli lobby focused on Kissinger.

      By 12 October, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz bluntly warned Kissinger that “if a massive American airlift to Israel does not start immediately then I’ll know that the United States is reneging on its promises and its policy, and we will have to draw very serious conclusions from all this.” Kissinger’s biographers, Bernard and Marvin Kalb, observed of this remark: “Dinitz did not have to translate his message. Kissinger quickly understood that the Israelis would soon ‘go public’ and that an upsurge of pro-Israeli sentiment could have a disastrous impact upon an already weakened administration.

      That same day, US oilmen sent a joint memorandum to Prresident Nixon expressing their alarm at the dangerous possibility of steep oil production cuts and price rises if the US continued its protective policies toward Israel. Nonetheless, Nixon and Kissinger ignored the warning and openly launched a huge air operation to supply Israel on 13 October.

      • James Canning on August 2, 2013, 3:59 pm

        Very interesting to our readers, I hope. And one might mention the repeated please by Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, to Nixon and Kissinger, to put US pressure on Israel to GET OUT of the Sinai, to avoid the war that otherwise was inevitable.

      • Sibiriak on August 3, 2013, 12:19 am


        US oilmen sent a joint memorandum to President Nixon expressing their alarm at the dangerous possibility of steep oil production cuts and price rises.

        Interesting. Others here argue that the U.S. petro-weapons complex wanted higher prices (see also Nitzan, “Political Economy of Israel”). Seems like desire for higher prices and desire for lower prices both have explanatory power, depending on the argument employed.

      • James Canning on August 4, 2013, 6:40 pm

        A sidenote: Anwar Sadat was the go-between, who helped end the Arab oil embargo.

      • Sibiriak on August 3, 2013, 12:31 am

        Zeev Moaz, “Defending the Holy Land”:

        The conventional wisdom and the institutional position is that Israel did all in its power to prevent the war; there simply was no viable diplomatic way to prevent the war. A growing body of scholarship suggests, however, that the war could have been averted by diplomacy and that Israel bears the major burden of this diplomatic failure.
        Israel’s strategic problem was its failure to grasp the extent to which Egypt and Syria were committed and willing to bear the costs of a major war designed to change the territorial and political status quo in the region.
        This implied for Egypt that, unless something drastic happened, the Israeli occupation of the Sinai would be perpetuated by superpower concert. The war was designed to shake up this superpower complacency. Accordingly, the war was defined as an instrument for shaking the status quo. Of course, the war was also designed to uplift Egyptian morale and to show to the entire world that Egypt was capable of standing up to the seemingly invincible Israelis. But it was the international objective of the war that shaped its operational contours. Thus, the plan consisted of an Egyptian drive to occupy a limited strip of land east of the Suez Canal, hold onto it, call it a victory, and sue for a cease-fire.

        the Syrians operated on the notion that the Egyptians would try to reoccupy the Sinai in its entirety. Seale (1988, 197) suggests that, had Asad known that the Egyptian plan called for a limited offensive, he would probably have not gone along with the Egyptian scheme. Syria’s plan consisted of the occupation of the Golan Height; there were no operational plans to go down to the Galilee once this goal was accomplished.

        Thus, in both cases, the operational objectives of the two allies were fairly limited.

      • James Canning on August 3, 2013, 1:40 pm

        @Sibiriak – – The Soviet Union was anything but “complacent” about Israel’s continuing occupation of the Sinai. In fact, the USSR was increasinlgy alarmed, during the course of that year (1973).

  8. just on August 1, 2013, 3:55 pm

    I never knew this stuff. Thank you, Max, for bringing it to my attention! Rabin is so often idolized by many– now I can see that it was more than a little undeserved, and how in the world could an Israeli murder him? Oh, perhaps because the assassin was a hardcore Zionist and religious zealot……….

    Indyk is not an American- firster, nor an Australian- firster. He is an Israeli- firster.

    He cannot be trusted in this “process”, and certainly not by anyone concerned about justice.

    (PS– how nice that the crowd laughed at his remarks about “aliyah”. I guess that he was speaking to and of his “peeps”).

  9. dbroncos on August 1, 2013, 6:44 pm

    ” He derided the late PA chairman as having “that big shit-eating grin of his” and assailed him for refusing to accept the Clinton Parameters…”

    As if Indyk didn’t contribute to the failure of Oslo with the distracting spectacle of his pronounced underbite.

  10. kayq on August 1, 2013, 7:13 pm

    An ally to Israel. A pro-Israel Israel-Palestine negotiations envoy. Yeah, this “””””””peace process”””””” is definitely shambles. Peace shmeace.

  11. American on August 2, 2013, 12:17 am

    Israel: a Huge Liability on American Foreign Policy Balance Sheet – Indyk-AIPAC Secret Theft From American Industry Reaches $100 Billion

    By Grant F. Smith
    Global Research, July 31, 2013

    Institute for Research Middle Eastern PolicyRegion:

    There are many reasons why naming Martin Indyk the special envoy to mediate between Israel and Palestine is a bad idea. Marinated in Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban’s largess at Brookings Institute, many observers have noted Indyk’sprevious failures as a diplomat for the U.S. It is assumed that Indyk will again function as “Israel’s lawyer” and Palestinians will get a raw deal. Less explored are the likely costs for the United States.

    In 1984 as research director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Indyk and his “research team” gutted advice and consent process during trade negotiations to deliver unprecedented concessions to Israel. During the negotiations American businesses opposed to the concessions delivered trade secrets and proprietarydata supporting their opposition to the International Trade Commission. The FBI soon discovered AIPAC had illegally obtained a secret copy of the business secrets compiled by ITC, giving AIPAC invaluable ammunition to target those lobbying against the deal.

    When publicly called out to explain the data theft on National Public Radio, Indyk was incapable of explaining how his research division obtained American business secrets—and instead answered a philosophical question about free trade that had not been asked.(Listen here) Thanks to recently declassified FBI files, it is known that Israeli Trade Minister Dan Halpern surreptitiously obtained and passed the stolen secrets to AIPAC, allowing the Israel lobby to end-run staunch opposition to the near-unilateral concessions. Complaints about Israeli theft of U.S. intellectual property, including pharmaceutical patents to export copy-cats into the U.S. market, have been ongoing.

    Since the year of the theft, the formerly balanced U.S.-Israeli trading relationship has turned into a chronic yearly deficit for America. From 1985 through May of 2013 (the latest data available), the deficit has reached a cumulative $100 billion. The recently departed U.S. Trade Ambassador refused to provide compensation to victimized industries. Indyk is once again in a position to throw America under the bus. Concerned observers must begin wonder how much it will cost.”

    Get them out of the US…

  12. Shingo on August 2, 2013, 9:18 am

    The guy oscillates between sounding reasonsable and being a lying slime ball. When Finkelstein pointed out the shameless hypocrisy of Indyk’s attack on Arafat, and the fact that it was the Palestinians making a the consessions (not Barak), Indyk remained indignant and insisted that those who read his book would see otherwise.

    In fact, he even accused Finkelstein of daring to cite UN Resolutions and international law to support his arguments – as if to sugggest that doing so was cheating or not playing by the rules.

    No wonder he was furious when he found out that Amy Goodman had invited Finkelstein to appear to debate him on Democracy Now. The guy has never allowed himself to be put in a position of having to defend his decept and lies against someone sufficiently well informed.

    • piotr on August 2, 2013, 12:28 pm

      “The guy oscillates between sounding reasonsable…”

      There is a gap between sounding reasonable of being a sophist who pretends to be reasonable? What is reasonable about the advise to “jump from the window onto a galloping horse”? Sure, it can be recommended to Palestinians, but seriously… would you advise it to anyone without having a very malicious grudge?

      When you start thinking, it is incredible what is routinely offered as a “reasonable advise” to the lesser people.

    • James Canning on August 2, 2013, 6:53 pm

      Very interesting.

  13. W.Jones on August 3, 2013, 10:29 pm


    In the speech, Indyk referred to a dialogue wherein Rabin labeled Arafat as possibly Jewish as a good-natured (and perhaps humorous) compliment. Arafat returned the conciliation, saying that Rachel was his aunt. She was one of the matriarchs of the Israelites. The banter between the two could be a positive gesture by Rabin, and Arafat could in turn be pointing to a real fact. After so many centuries of mixing of people in the Holy Land, would it be a surprise if one of Arafat’s very many ancestors’ relatives from ancient times was Rachel. In fact, among previous generations of Zionist leaders there were those like Ben Zvi who expounded on Palestinians’ Israelite roots.

    Yet Indyk associates Arafat’s statement with having a shit eating mouth and he says one cannot even ‘fathom’ what it means that a Palestinian would have Hebrew roots. This shows Indyk finds the idea of Palestinians having Hebrew roots to be extremely offensive– perhaps one of the most offensive ideas possible, since I imagine it’s rare for him to curse as part of a public speech.

    The idea of common roots is probably a strong source of reconciliation between two nationalist groups, which is why Rabin and Arafat mentioned it in their dialogue. Indyk, on the other hand, finds the idea of common roots to be one of the most offensive, disgusting ideas, and works to achieve what he considers a respectful Separation from the “sh*t-eaters”.

    For Indyk, when Rabin wryly says Palestinians have Jewish roots, its a air-filled joke, but when Arafat makes a smile himself and endorses the positive idea, it is incomprehensible and his mouth eats shit.

  14. James Canning on August 4, 2013, 1:28 pm

    @W.Jones – – Surely Indyk is aware the Palestinians descend in part from Jews living in Palestine 2000 years ago. But he may indeed find this “offensive”. Even if true.

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