America’s policy toward Israel and the Middle East was front and center in the political debate this election year, from Iran’s nuclear program to Israeli-Arab peacemaking to America’s response to the Arab Spring. And American Jews decided resoundingly — by a 70%–30% margin — that Barack Obama was the right man for the job of commander-in-chief.
Now the president needs to pick a new secretary of state, one who will have big shoes — or, as my wife would say, pumps — to fill. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a superb secretary of state, not only leading but also managing to be a great teammate. Her approval ratings are as sky-high as her effectiveness.
John Kerry, the senior Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who was officially nominated Friday, would be a great pick to succeed her.
I interned for Kerry back in the 1990s as an undergraduate student at Brandeis University, perhaps the most pro-Israel college in the country. To me, Kerry seemed larger than life, a passionate man who could command a room without effort, and who had an extraordinary grasp of the issues, domestic and foreign. I saw Kerry’s passion again, more than a decade later, when I worked at the Middle East desk at the State Department and later in the Senate as a foreign policy aide. I witnessed how Kerry made the tough calls and led by example, just as he had done when he spoke out against the Vietnam War as a young man and combat veteran.
Kerry understands how to use these formidable skills to strengthen our country’s relations with close allies like Israel. He is a longtime advocate for an ironclad defense partnership between Israel and the United States, and a vigorous American diplomatic role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He understands the challenge from Iran and is a ruling voice for active American global leadership to resolve the crisis over its nuclear program. Kerry has directed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he leads to take on each of these issues, ensuring that Israel gets the defense aid it needs and the diplomatic support it depends on, and that Iran gets the penalizing sanctions it deserves.