Jewish Groups' Silence Is Deafening After John Kerry's Plea for Peace

Refuse To Heed Calls To Push Israel to Talks

Snubbed? John Kerry passionately urged American Jewish leaders to push Israel to get back to the negotiating table. Their silence has spoken volumes.
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Snubbed? John Kerry passionately urged American Jewish leaders to push Israel to get back to the negotiating table. Their silence has spoken volumes.

By Yermi Brenner and Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 20, 2013.

Despite almost uniformly claiming to back a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, most major American Jewish organizations have declined to rally behind Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent call on them to speak with Israeli decision makers on the urgency of renewing negotiations with the Palestinians

In interviews with the Forward, some American Jewish leaders say they have stayed quiet because they feel that the onus is on the Palestinians to push for peace. Others told the Forward that they resented Kerry for asking them to pressure Israelis to come to the table.

“It’s inappropriate for an American official to try to engage and recruit American citizens, just because they happen to be Jewish, to put pressure on an Israeli government to do one thing or another,” said Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League. “It’s just wrong.”

Kerry’s appeal to the Jewish leaders, in a June 6 address to the American Jewish Committee, came weeks after his last of a handful of official visits to the Middle East on behalf of a renewed administration effort to re-start peace talks. Those talks came to a halt in 2010, amid Palestinian demands that Israel cease expanding exclusively Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Israel’s insistence on continuing to build them.

Though Israelis refrained from announcing new major settlement construction projects in the West Bank settlements during Kerry’s recent Middle foray, the government continued to allow ongoing construction, and approved plans for nearly 300 new homes in one West Bank settlement. Kerry’s effort appeared to be stalling by the time of the American Jewish Committee speech.

Though the phrasing of his request to the AJC audience was indirect, Kerry’s meaning was clear: the Secretary of State was asking his audience to use their influence on the Israelis who would be deciding whether or not to cooperate with his peace push.

“Let your leaders and your neighbors alike know that you understand this will be a tough process with tough decisions, but that you’re ready to back the leaders who make them,” Kerry said.



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