David Makovsky, a scholar at a Washington think tank with close ties to the U.S. and Israeli governments, will bring strong analytical skills and knowledge of Israel to his new post on the U.S. State Department’s burgeoning Israeli-Palestinian peace-brokering team, say those who are familiar with his work.
Makovsky will be a senior adviser to Martin Indyk, who leads the team. He will be on leave from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an influential outfit that employs as experts top officials from past Republican and Democratic administrations. The institute also has hosted an array of top Israelis as guest scholars, as well as some from other Middle Eastern countries.
Makovsky brings an expertise in one of the elements crucial to a final settlement: borders. The U.S. position on borders between Israel and Palestine is that they will be based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps.
“He’s the expert on how to do land swaps,” said Alan Elsner, vice president of communication for J Street. At the Washington Institute, Makovsky developed a series of maps showing possible land swaps.
“His joining the team raises hope that the administration is going to be calling on that expertise,” Elsner added.
Makovsky is “a great analyst and knows the peace process,” and has “credibility on the Israeli side,” said Ori Nir, spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now.
“His gift is the ability to quickly and intelligently synthesize a lot of information that is vague in nature,” Nir said.
Makovsky will be a good team player, which points to a larger problem, said Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
“He was clearly chosen because he agrees with the Obama-Indyk policy of pressing Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Palestinian Authority,” Klein said. “He is accepting of the Arab narrative, which is untrue.”
Since Indyk assumed the post of top Middle East negotiator in July, he has expanded his team from two to eight. The expansion is seen as a sign of Secretary of State John Kerry’s determination to bring about a final status agreement. Kerry was behind the push that renewed talks in July following a three-year lull.
JTA News and Features contributed to this article.