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Secretary Kerry Urges Jewish Support for Peace Process, But Gets Little Response

Allan C. Brownfeld
Special Interest Report
August 2013

In June, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the American Jewish Committee and warned the audience that the two state solution in the Middle East is about to expire and he urged that the American Jewish community do something to advance the peace process he had undertaken. He said, “No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community.”  
Portraying himself as a longtime friend of Israel, Kerry noted that his grand¬father was born Jewish and that he had relatives who died in the Holocaust and that his brother had converted to Judaism. He pointed out that, “As President Obama said in Jerusalem, leaders will take bold steps only if their people push them to. You can help shape the future of this process. And in the end, you can help Israel direct its destiny and be masters of its own fate … We’re running out of time.”  
Kerry told his audience that, “We’re running out of possibilities … If we do not succeed now … we may not get another chance … You and I both know that the place where all of this happens best is in a strong, secure Israel that lives peacefully alongside a viable Palestinian state … A realistic one-state solution simply does not exist for either side … Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state and a democratic state.”  
Some Israelis, Kerry pointed out, are “lulling themselves into a delusion” that the status quo of a relatively secure Israel in permanent conflict with its neighbors can endure. “A stalemate today will not remain one tomorrow,” he said.  
In response to Kerry’s plea for support, several senior American Jewish figures suggested that the sole holdup came from the Palestinian side. David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, told The Forward that he hoped the Palestinians would return to negotiations “in good faith to hammer out the tough issues.” Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said he saw the Palestinian leadership as the barrier to negotiations and saw no need to push Israeli leaders.”  
Editorially, The Forward (June 28, 2013) criticized the lack of Jewish support for Kerry’s call to aid the peace process. The leaders of major pro-Israel groups, the paper declared, “know that Kerry is right and that their public is largely behind him. It’s time they got behind him, too.”  
Writing in The Jerusalem Report (July 15, 2013), Alan Eisner, Communications Director of J Street, declared that, “It may be that some in the American Jewish community are waking up to the implications of a possible Kerry failure. Israel needs these negotiations to proceed and so does American Jewry. Without them, the Netanyahu government is likely to find itself more isolated diplomatically than at any time since the 1980s, able to count on support in the U.N. and other international bodies only from the U.S. and a few atolls in the South Pacific. So while there may be little genuine enthusiasm for the two-state solution at the top reaches of the American Jewish organizations, few look forward to seeing its demise as an idea and an aspiration.”  
Seymour Reich, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, declared (Forward, July 12, 2013) that, “Kerry’s appeal was prompted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mixed signals as to his sincerity about negotiating an agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu has refused to repudiate statements by two of his ministers that undermine peace efforts, leading the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman to call Netanyahu’s support of a two-state solution ‘not credible.’ Because of Netanyahu’s actions, Kerry felt the need to call on American Jews to support his efforts, which he was absolutely right to do, especially since poll after poll of American Jews indicate that a large majority favor a two-state solution. It is appalling that only a handful … of American Jewish leaders heeded Kerry. The views of the majority of American Jews have got to be made known loud and clear. “American Jews have got to be made known loud and clear.” •

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