While President Barack Obama questioned Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas's true willingness to make peace, Kerry was determined to end the Israel-Palestinian stalemate. Washington dared him to try.
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Critics remarked that anyone who failed to beat George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election could hardly be expected to make any real progress in the Middle East peace process.
But the man who wanted to be president had spent years at the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee which prepared him for his grueling shuttle diplomacy that on Friday resulted in the announcement of the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
After six visits to the Middle East in just five months, as well as countless phone conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and negotiators, Kerry can credit himself with ending a deadlock that lasted years.
In comparison, Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state was criticized for spending too much time abroad, made the same number of Mideast trips as Kerry in her four years in office.
Clinton did not believe Netanyahu would bring peace and did not want to waste her term on endless trips to Ramallah and Jerusalem. Kerry on the other hand embraced the challenge and decided that instead of appointing a Mideast envoy he would do the groundwork himself.
Kerry in Ramallah (Photo: AFP)
The secretary of state extended his trip to Jordan by two days hoping to allay concerns in Jerusalem and Ramallah and step up the pressure. Obama's phone conversations with Netanyahu and the Saudi king on Thursday signaled that American diplomacy might actually be bearing fruit.
Kerry himself decided to reveal as little details as possible about the decision to renew talks while making the announcement in Jordan so as not to cause problems for Netanyahu in his cabinet or for Abbas in the Palestinian Authority.
Flying over Jordan (Photo: Reuters)
Reports in leading US media outlets on Kerry's efforts were fairly scarce – a testament to his success in keeping the talks under wraps.
Brookings Institute Vice President and former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk praised Kerry on his Twitter account on Friday. "So Kerry did it. By George he did it! Negotiations will resume forthwith. Now watch the naysayers declare there'll never be an agreement."
Palestinian President Abbas (Photo: EPA)
President of the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy secretary of state Richard Haas also acknowledged the achievement but was less optimistic about the chances of success. "Kudos to John Kerry, but hard 2 be upbeat on #MiddleEast prospects given divides within/between Israelis & Palestinians, regional turbulence," he wrote on Twitter.
Generally though, Americans were not particularly intrigued by the news of renewed negotiations in the Middle East. America's three major news networks dedicated their Friday night editions to Obama's surprisingly emotional public reflection on the Zimmerman trial, the massive heat wave, Detroit's bankruptcy and images of the capture of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Hardly one word was said about the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Americans know that while Kerry has done what many regard as the impossible, the road to reaching an actual peace accord is long and hard.
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