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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But Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, noted what he described as a widespread Jewish communal skepticism rooted in two decades of frustration.

“The skepticism is overwhelming on all sides, so now we’re waiting and seeing,” Foxman said, referring to attitudes within the organized Jewish community.

In a short radio commentary released Tuesday, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, applauded Kerry’s efforts.

Noting that advancing peace “isn’t for the faint-hearted,” Harris said, “Bravo, then, to Secretary of State John Kerry for his current effort.”

But Kerry’s efforts have met with outspoken opposition from the right, both in the American Jewish community and in Israel.

The Zionist Organization of America accused the Obama administration of turning itself into the Palestinian Authority’s “attorney and chief negotiator.”

Some right-wing members of Netanyahu’s Likud party and larger governing coalition have reacted with alarm to Kerry’s efforts.

Last month, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, was quoted by an Israeli newspaper as privately telling colleagues that Kerry had an “incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling.” Yaalon later apologized if Kerry was offended by the remarks attributed to him.

More recently, a Knesset member from the pro-settler Jewish Home party, Moti Yogev, suggested that Kerry was driven by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel feelings. His statement was condemned by Jewish groups, including the ADL and AJC.

Tensions also flared recently between Kerry and Netanyahu. Israeli officials reacted with anger to Kerry’s warning in a speech last weekend that failure to arrive at a deal could give momentum to efforts to isolate and boycott Israel.

Netanyahu responded that “no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel,” while Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, called Kerry’s remarks “intolerable.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki shot back that Kerry opposes boycotts and simply was describing what was at stake, adding that the secretary of state “expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.” Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said on Twitter that the attacks on Kerry were “unfounded and unacceptable.”

The ADL weighed in with an open letter criticizing Kerry’s remark.

“Describing the potential for expanded boycotts of Israel makes it more, not less, likely that the talks will not succeed; makes it more, not less, likely that Israel will be blamed if the talks fail; and more, not less, likely that boycotts will ensue,” Foxman wrote.


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