Martin Indyk and his history

The Weekly Standard and the Forward each rummage through the baggage of the newly (re)named top Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk.

The Forward’s Nathan Guttman notes that Indyk, who held a similar post during the Clinton administration, has pissed off folks all over the map. The Standards’s Noah Pollak unearths evidence that he’s flattered folks all over the map.

Take your pick: Guttman’s man with the right kind of baggage, or Pollak’s failed careerist. Flatter one guy, you’re gonna piss off another.

One quibble with Pollak: He suggests Dennis Ross got a first-term Obama job because he backed Obama while Indyk was frozen out because he backed the wrong horse. But Ross did not back Obama until Clinton conceded and made it a point not to back anyone in the Democratic primaries in 2008. He acknowledged to me at the time that there was a perception that he was backing Clinton only because Clinton’s people took up his standing offer for consultations more frequently than Obama’s.

Indyk was an analyst at Australian National University in Canberra in the 1970s when he met Steve Rosen, who was then a visiting professor at ANU and later the research director at AIPAC. Indyk became Rosen’s deputy at AIPAC in 1982 and founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy a few years later. (I was in Canberra a couple of weekends in the early 80s. It was the kind of town that could easily drive you to become a deputy research director at a Washington lobby.)

A few years back, Rosen described for me the meeting that established Indyk’s government career. The Clintons, early in the 1992 primaries, were doing the rounds with interest groups, as all primary candidates do — especially governors, who want to know more about the national/international issues they would be expected to handle in the White House. Indyk was no longer at AIPAC, but Rosen chose him as his wingman.

A meeting that would typically run 20 minutes stretched on for hours as Rosen sat back (something he was not accustomed to doing) and watched the chemistry unfold between Indyk and the Clintons. The Clintons, Rosen said, had the type of blunt, right questions typical of people smart enough to realize they knew little about a tremendously complex subject. And Indyk loved it.

So what makes Martin run? He suggested a factor closer to home in his short remarks Monday, after Kerry made the announcement.

Fifteen years ago my son, Jacob, who was 13 at the time, designed a screensaver for my computer. It consisted of a simple question that flashed across the screen constantly: Dad, is there peace in the Middle East yet? I guess you could say, Mr. Secretary, that he was one of the original skeptics. (Laughter.) But behind that skepticism 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.

Israeli study: As negotiators, man smart, woman smarter

Forget the men when it comes to business negotiations. Women may be more skilled than their masculine counterparts, according to a new study by an Israeli researcher.

The doctoral study, by Yael Itzhaki of Tel Aviv University (TAU), indicated that in certain groupings, women offered better terms than men to reach an agreement and were good at facilitating interaction between the parties.

“Women are more generous negotiators, better cooperators and are motivated to create win-win situations,” Itzhaki said.

Itzhaki, an adjunct lecturer at TAU’s Faculty of Management at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, carried out simulations of business negotiations among 554 Israeli and American management students at Ohio State University, in New York City and in Israel.

The simulations, which were designed to examine how women behave in business situations requiring cooperation and competition, involved negotiating the terms of a joint venture, including the division of shares.

During the course of her research, Itzhaki discovered that while women in mid-management positions are often held back from promotion for being too “cooperative” and “compassionate,” men have begun to recognize the skills of their female colleagues and are now incorporating feminine strategies into their negotiating styles. “The men come in and use the same tactics women are criticized for,” she said.

Although both men and women can be good negotiators, Itzhaki emphasizes that there should be more women in top management jobs. Women have unique skills to offer, she said: They’re great listeners, they care about the concerns of the other side, and they’re generally more interested in finding a win-win situation to the benefit of both parties than male negotiators.

woman smarter william shatnerThese are especially desirable traits in today’s business world, which is calling for service improvements for customers and clients. Women today are earning more top positions in banking because of this trend, Itzhaki says.

In part, she says, women don’t reach CEO positions because they lack the right professional experience for the job and never enter the pool from which top positions are drawn. Managers commonly choose successors and colleagues who are most similar to themselves, Itzhaki explains. As a result, men are more likely to promote men.

Itzhaki, who is the founder of Netta, a nonprofit organization that promotes the advancement of women in the workplace, is currently advising Israeli companies on how to take affirmative action. Enforcing equal opportunity laws is one concern, but her advice also responds to concerns beyond the law. Are women being heard in corporate boardrooms? Does the company have policies that measure the amount of work accomplished and not merely hours on the job?

A lot of women don’t want to “fight” to be recognized, she said, preferring cooperation over competition. But more women in management can translate to a healthier bottom line, Itzhaki said.

“Businesses need to develop an organizational culture where everyone is heard, because women’s opinions and skills can give businesses a competitive edge,” she said.


Voices of Peace

In the long view — and who could have a longer view than the man who, until recently, was the U.S. State Department’s Middle East negotiator for the past 12 years? — Dennis Ross believes that diplomacy in the Middle East boils down to psychology. "The idea of taking politics out of foreign policy," Ross said, "is as illusory as taking psychology out of human behavior, and what is foreign policy after all, but a collection of human behaviors."

As Ross presented his ideas to the students of the "Voices of Peace" class of Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller at UCLA, there was a silent nod of recognition.

"In the end, when you’re going to settle a conflict like this, everybody has to give up his myths," Ross told his audience. "Myths are what fuel the conflict; they create a sense of identity and struggle and a sense of legitimacy to a struggle. But when you’re trying to end that struggle, you have to look for a practical way to accommodate each side’s needs."

I’ve resigned as negotiator, he told the class. Now, what would you do? What do you think should happen right now?

The Palestinian, Israeli and American students gave a nervous chuckle and twisted in their seats. Some adjusted their Chinese take-out on their laps, scanned their hair for split ends or laughed nervously at the thought of being asked to negotiate. Other brave souls raised their hands to share with Ross what they would do for peace.

"What if there was an autonomous arrangement for the Palestinians, and then down the line, we talked about sovereignty?" one student suggested.

Ross countered, "Problem is, they’ve already had autonomy, and that hasn’t been very satisfying. If the Palestinians really had that and didn’t face checkpoints and were able to move goods in and out, that would be one thing, but how do you reconcile freedom of movement with Israeli concerns for security?"

"What if each side tried to settle their differences first?" "What if we turned back the clock?" "What if the media played more of a role in equalizing the conflict?" other students suggested.

Eventually, each side’s myths began to explode around the classroom.

"It seems there is a double standard," a young woman said, "Palestinians get away with acts of violence that Israelis are condemned for."

"Israelis start a majority of the violence," another said angrily. "It’s not fair that people say Palestinians start the violence. The fact is that what happened is the Palestinian homeland was taken away from them violently. That’s the truth."

A sense of grievance, a term used earlier by Ross to describe each side, also described the classroom at this moment, ending a pathway back to where a solution was possible.

In the end, Ross told the students that he is an optimist. He believes that through sheer exhaustion, or by realizing there is no other alternative, Israelis and Palestinins will return to the negotiating table.

"So as I’ve thought about it, the need to give up myths is essential," Ross stated. "But you can’t do it all at once. It’s pretty clear there has to be a psychological adjustment. The most profound contribution at Camp David, was the breaking of taboos, the ability of getting beyond slogans to deal with the core existential questions. The failing was to think you could break those taboos and [have] an immediate psychological adjustment. I spent enough time around Arafat to believe he genuinely wanted peace, but to act on it was something he could not do. The fact was, Barak was prepared to assume that historic burden, but look what happened in the process."