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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Foxman’s letter did, however, express support for Kerry’s peace efforts and respect for his work.

Some of the likely elements of the framework that have been discussed in briefings and news reports would be warmly received by Jewish groups. According to participants in the off-the-record call with Indyk, the peace envoy suggested that the framework would include a call for recognition of Israel as a state of the Jewish people – a key Netanyahu demand that has been firmly rejected by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

But in addressing delicate issues such as Jerusalem and refugees, the framework could draw objections from both sides. News reports have suggested that the framework would call for Jerusalem to be a shared capital and for Palestinian refugees and their descendants not to have the right to resettle in Israel, although the reliability of such reports is not clear.

The State Department has stressed that the framework is a work in progress and so even Indyk’s characterizations should not be considered final.

Jewish communal professionals say that sensitive compromises likely to be embedded in an agreement would require community consideration, particularly on Jerusalem.

“Most organizations have passed a number of resolutions on these issues,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. “If what comes out in the framework differs from that, we want to engage with our community in a thoughtful examination of where we are now.”

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, said his group would push back against anything less than full Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

“Our position is very clear,” he said. “The O.U. is flat opposed to any proposals that would re-divide the city of Jerusalem and we regularly communicate that to people in the Obama administration.”

Josh Block, the president of the Israel Project, said Jewish groups throughout the process should be urging sensitivity to Israeli security needs in a tumultuous neighborhood. But he said the groups should be prepared as well for the possibility of the talks failing due to Palestinian intransigence.

In that event, Block said, it will be important to work to ensure that the Palestinians, and not Israel, are held responsible.

“The Israelis are cooperative,” he said. “Are Indyk and Kerry at the end saying both sides wouldn’t get it done, or are they going to say it’s the Palestinians?”


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