Jewish Groups Sit On Fence as John Kerry Readies Middle East Peace Framework

Wait-And-See Attitude Toward Marathon Talks

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By Ron Kampeas

Published February 04, 2014.
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(JTA) — As the Obama administration prepares to unveil a framework plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Jewish groups have responded by laying low.

In contrast to the noisy Iran sanctions contretemps between the administration and much of the pro-Israel community, the leading centrist Jewish groups have largely adopted a wait-and-see approach as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry works on the framework agreement.

The groups all publicly express support for Kerry’s efforts, but they have refrained from aggressive lobbying or commenting on news reports about purported details of the framework.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which usually takes the lead in framing community response to peace talks, has been quiet, congressional and administration insiders said.

“As we have since the beginning of the process, we continue to support Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a secure and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman said in a statement to JTA.

There are a number of reasons for the community’s relatively low profile. In addition to their focus on Iran, centrist groups do not want to prematurely weigh in on an anticipated proposal that has yet to see the light of day.

The muted response also echoes the approach taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has emphasized that he is receptive to Kerry’s efforts, even as he has suggested that Israel will not necessarily have to agree to all the elements of an American framework proposal.

In addition, the Obama administration has tried to head off concerns by stressing that it is developing the framework in close consultation with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, emphasizing that there will be no surprises.

At least 50 Jewish organizational leaders received a preview of some of the framework’s likely elements in a conference call last week with Martin Indyk, the U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Jewish communal leaders offer varied assessments of the communal expectations of whether Kerry’s efforts will advance the cause of peace.

Martin Raffel, senior vice president at the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, said the community was invested in a successful outcome.

“The mainstream is overwhelmingly hopeful that Kerry will get to what they are trying to accomplish,” he said, “which is to get to a framework that the parties will agree to even if they have reservations, but there are sufficient grounds to build on.”


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