Four months into his term, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying, simultaneously, to end two of the world’s most intractable conflicts: the Syrian civil war and the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians.
The two issues, according to an aide, have consumed the vast majority of Kerry’s time and energy - he has already flown more than 100,000 miles to 23 countries, including four trips to Israel - since he took office Feb. 1.
What is unclear, however, is whether all the movement will lead to progress, or whether it will go down as the quixotic, if laudable, efforts of an enthusiastic new secretary of state.
Success, or even progress, could increase Kerry’s clout with foreign interlocutors and at the White House. Failure could tarnish his early months and, in the case of Israeli-Palestinian peace, add his name to a long list of chief U.S. diplomats who have tried and then moved on to other challenges.
Kerry, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is well-known in Washington and the corridors of power in foreign capitals, even if he may lack the global star-power of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.
But what he is attempting is arguably more ambitious than where Clinton - another failed presidential candidate turned chief diplomat - was at the same stage four months into her tenure in the job.
Clinton kept some distance from the Israeli-Palestinian issue, visiting Israel just five times in four years in office and delegating day-to-day work to special envoy George Mitchell.
Unlike Clinton though, Kerry is not hamstrung by trying to preserve an ability to run for president again and so perhaps has greater latitude to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians without fear of alienating Jewish American voters.
The next several weeks may provide clues on whether Kerry’s efforts in Arab-Israeli peace-making and in trying to find a diplomatic solution to the more than two years of violence in Syria will bear fruit.