(JTA) — John Kerry is not a naive man. I met him recently at a luncheon at Georgetown University with a small group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith leaders brought together to hear the secretary of state’s frank reflections on the peace process.
While deeply aware of the complexities and obstacles to peace, Kerry is undeterred by the acrimony and intransigence that imprison Israelis and Palestinians in a devastating and soul-corrupting status quo even as the Middle East shakes around them.
“At some point,” he said, “you just have to bet on peace.”
There are many legitimate reasons to be skeptical of this latest round of peace talks. To reach a lasting, negotiated two-state solution, both sides will have to make excruciating choices on core issues from refugees to security to settlements to Jerusalem.
This is a rare moment – a precious opportunity for the American Jewish leadership to improve the prospects for lasting peace and security by providing the principled support that can embolden Israel to take the necessary steps to achieve both goals. Instead, too many leaders have opted for muted support of these efforts, shying away from the type of full-throated, ardent, sustained and public backing that will tap into our community’s desire for a negotiated two-state solution – offering instead quiet criticism, muttered cynicism or silence.
Driven by fear, distrust and even disdain, some in the Jewish community see the quest for peace – that is, an independent and viable state of Palestine alongside a secure and Jewish state of Israel – as driven by a reckless combination of naivete and arrogance.
I don’t see it that way, nor do most American Jews – the quiet majority, all-too-often marginalized when it comes to public discourse on Israel. They – we – love the State of Israel, believe that peace is possible, and see its pursuit not as a sign of weakness but rather as an expression of courage, compassion and faith.