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The Short Spiral: From A Peace Plan Scuttled To A Gaza Invasion


And I'm Audie Cornish. Now to the conflict in Gaza. In a few minutes, we'll hear about life under bombardment. First, to someone who's been around this block many times.


Until just a few weeks ago Martin Indyk was running Secretary of State John Kerry's faltering effort to get Israelis and Palestinians on a path toward peace. Indyk is a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a former assistant secretary of state. He is now back at the Brookings Institution in Washington and he joins us today as Israelis and Palestinians are once again fighting. Martin Indyk, Thanks for joining us.

MARTIN INDYK: Thank you Robert.

SIEGEL: A few days ago you described Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, having sent troops to the Gaza border already, as very reluctant to go in. He's since gone in, do you think you misjudged his reluctance or if not what happened between Sunday and Thursday to change his mind?

INDYK: No, I don't think I misjudged his reluctance, I think he's a reluctant warrior in this regard. What happened was, he tried for a cease-fire and the rockets still came down on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other parts of Southern Israel. So, he stepped it up a notch by moving in, but making clear he's just going after the tunnels in the vicinity of the border. But it's a slippery slope and I don't see the rockets stopping, in fact there are more today and I'm afraid that Netanyahu is going to be faced with the question of either, do we move in and try to put more pressure on Hamas or do we sustain this rocket fire and I'm afraid that he's going to have to have to go in further.

SIEGEL: But in that case would going in further have clear goals, clear military goals or would it essentially be, as you say, merely and attempt to put pressure and perhaps in this case to satisfy those to his right, who think he should be doing more.

INDYK: Right. Well, they can certainly define some goals, like destroying the rocket piles wherever they can find them, toppling Hamas's control of Gaza. But all of those goals will involve a high, high cost, both in civilian casualties. Already we see them mounting on the Palestinian side, including women and children. There'll be a lot more because Hamas is in heavily populated areas in Gaza. And of course the Israelis will start to take more significant casualties and so I think there's a whole world of hurt ahead of them and that's why I still believe that he's doing this reluctantly. And the question becomes, how do you stop Hamas from firing the rockets?

SIEGEL: But the key players, who might be involved in bringing some kind of cease-fire here include Netanyahu and Abbas. Of whom you recently told Jeffrey Goldberg, of the Atlantic, there is a deep loathing of each leader for the other that's built up over the years. There's Hamas, with whom the U.S. doesn't officially talk and there's the Egyptian government, which seems to feel that we're unsympathetic to them and too sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, which they figure was just like Hamas. I mean, given those realities, what can the U.S. do next? What should the U.S. do next?

INDYK: A fine mess indeed. And you describe it quite well. I think the relationship between Abu Mazen and Bibi Netanyahu, ironically, is improving in the midst of this crisis. Because they share a common antipathy towards Hamas and people have probably forgotten by now that Hamas actually gave over governance to the Palestinian Authority just before this whole crisis broke out. So, his role is going to be important. The Egyptian role is going to be important, they've put a cease-fire proposal on the table. You know, Hamas wants to negotiate the details before the cease-fire, the Egyptians are saying, we'll negotiate the details after the cease-fire, that's the stuff of diplomacy, Robert. The critical question is, is Hamas ready to stop firing those rockets and unfortunately the sense at the moment - that the answer to that is no.

SIEGEL: One analysis of recent events is that the Kerry initiative, that you were so active in and it's lack of success, further weakened anyone on either side who was inclined to compromise, left a vacuum. And the hardest of hardliners among Israelis and Palestinians gained and are now calling the shots - fair criticism?

INDYK: No, I don't think so. I mean it's like saying it's better not to try at all, than to try and fail. And I've never subscribed to that credo, it's, you know, the Secretary warned repeatedly that the alternative to making peace was this kind of chronic conflict, with its eruptions and horrendous consequences. And we were trying to resolve the conflict. I don't think there were high expectations on either side that we would succeed. I think that we were right to try, that people will come out of this conflict and will say, we are right to try again and we will once the parties are ready.

SIEGEL: Martin Indyk, thank you very much for talking with us.

INDYK: Thank you Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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