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Jewish Journal

No Stranger to Controversy

by Sharon Samber

September 28, 2000 | 8:00 pm

From the start, Martin Indyk's career as a U.S. official has been filled with intrigue.As the first Jewish ambassador to Israel and later the top State Department official in charge of Middle East policy, Indyk's words and actions have been scrutinized by Jews and Arabs, by proponents and opponents of the peace process.

Now, with his security clearance suspended, both Indyk's words and actions are on hold until the State Department finishes its investigation of his "suspected violations" of security procedures.State Department officials have emphasized that there is "no indication of espionage in this matter" and that no "intelligence information has been compromised."

Indyk, a native Australian who only became a U.S. citizen in 1993, one week before President Clinton appointed him as the National Security Council's senior director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, worked as a research associate at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, in 1982.

Later, he was the founding executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank.

He was appointed U.S. ambassador to Israel in 1995, then again in 1999.Just last week, Indyk ruffled feathers with a comment that Israel should share Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

Jerusalem "is not, and cannot be, the exclusive preserve of one religion, and the solution cannot come from one side challenging or denying another side's beliefs," he was quoted as saying as he received an honorary doctorate from the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

During his tenure, Indyk was also accused by Likud officials of crafting Clinton's strategy of openly backing then-Labor leader Shimon Peres in his 1996 contest for prime minister against Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1997 a right-wing Knesset member hurled an anti-Semitic epithet at Indyk, apparently because he believed the ambassador was pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

Indyk was challenged on many of these issues during 1997 Senate confirmation hearings for his appointment to become assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, boosting him to the top Middle East policy post.

Nevertheless, he was easily confirmed for the post in September 1997.

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