In a passionate appeal for supporting his Middle East peace effort, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that time is running out on a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kerry, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee, called on American Jews to support his effort and to provide political backing for leaders willing to take risks for peace.
“You can help shape the future of this process and help Israel direct its destiny,” Kerry said in his speech, adding that “no one has a stronger voice” on the issue of a two-state solution, than the American Jewish community.
Kerry has been shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah intensively ever since he took office in February. The new Secretary of State has set a goal of getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiation table to renew a process that has been dormant for the past four years.
In his address, Kerry tried to convey a sense of urgency, adding a veiled threat that his current attempt to resurrect the peace process could be the last chance.
“Many of you are asking, ‘Ma Nishtana? What is different?’” said Kerry, quoting the Jewish Passover Hagadah. His answer is that this time could be the last opportunity. “If we do not succeed now we might not have another chance.”
Kerry warned that the status quo in the region is not sustainable and that Israelis would be wrong to thing they can maintain their relative sense of security and low level of violence without a renewal of the peace process. He also spoke out against sentiments of cynicism and skepticism that have dominated the Israeli discourse about the peace process.
Kerry praised the Palestinian Authority for making a commitment to non-violence but expressed his concern that if the peace process fails the P.A. might be replaced by a more extreme regime. “If that experiment is allowed to fail,” Kerry said of the Palestinian commitment to the peace process, “ask yourself what will replace it?”
In a speech that echoed at times President Obama’s address to the Israeli people in Jerusalem during his March visit, Secretary Kerry highlighted the perils Israel would face if the peace process fails and listed the benefits Israel stands to gain if a two-state solution is achieved. “Quite simple: Peace pays,” he said.
Kerry peppered his speech with anecdotes from his many visits to Israel as a senator and as secretary of state and reminded the crowd that his brother, Cameron, had converted to Judaism many years ago. Cameron Kerry assumed the post of acting Secretary of Commerce today, making the Kerry family have two representatives, at least temporarily, in the Obama cabinet.
Kerry intends to return to the Middle East in the near future for another round of talks with Netanyahu and Abbas, in attempt of reaching an agreement on renewing peace talks this summer.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.