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John Kerry Photo: MCT
John Kerry Photo: MCT
 
 

Kerry determined to resolve conflict

Analysis: Unlike Obama, top US diplomat has not lost faith in stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Yitzhak Benhorin
Published: 02.07.13, 11:09 / Israel Opinion

WASHINGTON – Despite the fact that many people believed Obama would take his revenge on Netanyahu for his blatant intervention in the American elections and try to influence the results of the Israeli elections, the US president did not intervene. But the establishment of the next Israeli government is another matter. Officials in Washington openly expressed their satisfaction with Yesh Atid's success, with many in the US capital saying that the Israeli public was not as extreme as some were making it out to be.

 

Now, according to the Americans, Israel needs to form a coalition that will allow it to conduct peace negotiations. The US is not intervening in the coalition talks themselves, but it has clarified to the person who is in charge of the talks that it will not allow the diplomatic process to be put on the back burner. This is why new Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Netanyahu and Abbas as soon as he was sworn in. He also held several other phone conversations to discuss burning issues with the foreign ministers of Japan, Canada and Turkey, but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the top of his agenda.

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On Friday CNN reported that Kerry plans to visit Israel and Egypt in the coming weeks. The visit may be postponed in order to give Netanyahu ample time to form a coalition, but the message is clear – Kerry plans to work personally to jumpstart the peace process, and he will certainly visit the region more than his predecessor Hillary Clinton did.

 

Kerry is focused, say those who have spoken to him about the Middle East, and about Israel in particular. He is 18 years older than Obama, and unlike the president, he has been familiar with Israel since the Six Day War and was even involved in the peace process (Oslo Accords and the Madrid Conference). He is sentimental when it comes to Israel and is interested in everything that goes on in the Jewish state. He is very warm towards Israel, in part due to his grandfather's Jewish background and due to the fact that his brother Cameron converted to Judaism and is an active member of the Jewish community.

 

"I will never step back from my commitment to the State of Israel (or) from the plight of Palestinians,” Kerry said during his Senate confirmation hearing. During a visit to Israel two years ago, Kerry met with a group of Israeli intellectuals and pundits, in addition to his meetings with senior officials. It is said that he likes to listen and learn. The first conversation he held after being sworn in was with former Secretary of State George Shultz.

 


עם נשיא המדינה. "השלום חיוני" (צילום: מארק ניימן, לע"מ)

'There is a way forward.' Kerry and Peres (Photo: Mark Neiman, GPO)

 

At this point President Obama does not want to invest too much effort in a failed process, but Kerry is driven and believes he can jumpstart the peace talks. He is signaling to Israel and the PA that Washington will not let up and has clarified that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would help solve other American problems in the Mideast and other regions, including North Africa, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

 

"So much of what we aspire to achieve and what we need to do globally, what we need to do in the Maghreb and South Asia, South Central Asia, throughout the Gulf, all of this is tied to what can or doesn't happen with respect to Israel-Palestine," he said at his confirmation hearing. "And in some places it's used as an excuse. In other places it's a genuine, deeply felt challenge."

 

Kerry also believes that time is running out on the two-state solution. "We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward," Kerry said just a few days before his appointment was confirmed.

 

"But I also believe that if we can't be successful that the door, or window, or whatever you want to call it, to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous in my judgment."

 

 

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