August 10, 2013
US Secretary of State makes case for support on peace efforts.
WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry met with leaders of the American Jewish committee privately on Thursday night at the White House, making a case for support on his push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The meeting lasted 90 minutes and was dominated by Kerry, who gave a prepared speech to the group. The secretary’s remarks were followed by a brief statement from National Security Advisor Susan Rice and twelve questions from the small crowd.
In a break from public pronouncements, Kerry addressed other regional events and repeatedly told the group that the Muslim Brotherhood was not returning to power in Egypt. He also mentioned that Hezbollah and Iran were distracted from their plight against Israel with the Syrian conflict.
Kerry told the Jewish leaders that peace was a “strategic imperative” for both Israel and the Palestinians, and argued that the regional strategic environment has become favorable for a peace agreement because opponents of peace have weakened over the past two years.
He also expressed irritation with continued settlement building in the West Bank. The State Department today acknowledged that Washington had “made its concerns known” to the Israeli government.
Kerry also warned the group of “negative consequences” for Israel if the parties fail to succeed in clinching peace.
But the questions reflect skepticism in the Jewish community towards Kerry’s approach and reflected distrust in the Palestinian leadership. Several questioners challenged Kerry on whether PLO president Mahmoud Abbas would take steps to reassure Israel that he is serious about the process.
Asked about whether the Palestinians would ever be prepared to accept Israel as the Jewish state, Kerry declined to comment on details in the negotiating process.
“[Kerry] spoke about there being no alternative,” one attendee said, noting that the word “Jerusalem” did not come up in the meeting.
Negotiations restarted last month in Washington after Kerry conducted shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Amman for months, sorting out preconditions set forth by the Palestinian Authority.
Talks will continue on August 14 in Jerusalem, followed by talks in Jericho on a date to be determined by the parties