VIDEO

New US Middle East peace envoy says 'maybe this time'

US Secretary of State John Kerry listens during a press conference at the State Department July 29, 2013, after announcing former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk (right), will head the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that begin later this eveni
US Secretary of State John Kerry listens during a press conference at the State Department July 29, 2013, after announcing former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk (right), will head the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that begin later this evening in Washington, DC. For the past 15 years, a screen-saver made by Martin Indyk's son has flashed one question across his computer: "Dad, is there peace in the Middle East yet?" Now, this new US envoy to fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will again seek to resolve the world's most intractable conflict. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - For the past 15 years, a screen-saver made by Martin Indyk's son has flashed one question across his computer: "Dad, is there peace in the Middle East yet?" Now, this new US envoy to fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will again seek to resolve the world's most intractable conflict.

The British-born, Australian-raised seasoned diplomat, who has made the United States home, is no stranger to either the Middle East, or to the decades of past disappointments in bids to cut a peace deal.

But Mr Indyk, 62, despite his own involvement in former president Bill Clinton's failed 2000 Camp David summit, remains convinced the two sides can forge an agreement.

"It's been my conviction for 40 years that peace is possible since I experienced the agony of the 1973 Yom Kippur war as a student in Jerusalem," Mr Indyk said, as he stood alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry after being named US envoy to the talks set to resume later Monday.

"In those dark days, I witnessed firsthand how one of your predecessors, Henry Kissinger, brokered a cease-fire that ended the war and paved the way for peace between Israel and Egypt."

And he praised the efforts of Mr Kerry, who has been ridiculed by many in Washington for his single-minded pursuit of a resumption of peace talks, even though "most people thought you were on a mission impossible." Born in London in 1952, Mr Indyk moved with his family to Australia as a boy.

He later emigrated to the Untied States in 1983 and gained citizenship a decade later. Initially, he was recruited to be a member of the main pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

He was a founding director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 1985 where he stayed for eight years. In 1993, he was named then president Bill Clinton's special assistant for the Middle East on the National Security Council.

Mr Indyk served twice as US ambassador to Israel, from 1995-1997 and from 2000-2001, during which time he participated in Mr Clinton's failed Camp David summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"He is one of America's most seasoned experts on this issue, he has devoted almost his entire professional career to this question," Mr David Makovsky, senior fellow at Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told AFP.

"Frankly you're dealing with two parties, Israelis and Palestinians, who live this issue and your knowledge has to be as deep as theirs or else you're in trouble," he said.

"I think having Martin is the best hope the United States will not be outmanoeuvred in these talks." Mr Indyk will be taking leave from his current position as head of foreign policy at the renowned Brookings Institution think tank to help shepherd the new peace talks, no doubt shuttling back and forth between Israel and Washington.

Mr Kerry said Mr Indyk had already won the respect of both sides.

"He understands that Israeli-Palestinian peace will not come easily and it will not happen overnight," he said.

"But he also understands that there is now a path forward and we must follow that path with urgency," the top US diplomat added.

Mr Indyk said one of his guiding principles is to answer the hopes of all young people, including his son Jacob, who designed the screen-saver at the age of 13.

"I guess you could say, Mr. Secretary, that he was one of the original sceptics," Mr Indyk told Mr Kerry. "But behind that scepticism was also a yearning. And for 15 years, I've only been able to answer him: Not yet."

"Perhaps, Mr Secretary, through your efforts and our support, we may yet be able to tell Jake, and more importantly all those young Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for a different, better tomorrow, that this time we actually made it."