Kerry calls on U.S. Jews to press for peace talks


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State John Kerry said talks toward a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians were critical and U.S. Jews could play a role in advancing them.

“No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community,” Kerry said Monday at the annual American Jewish Committee global forum in Washington. “Leaders will take both steps only if their people push them to.”

For Kerry, it was his first address to the organized Jewish community since becoming secretary of state in February. He has visited the region four times and said Monday he would visit again “soon.”

Kerry has placed a premium on reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks and chided those who say that now is not the time because of gaps between the sides and unrest roiling the region.

Israelis who are content with the relative security they enjoy now because of the security fence and other factors “are lulling themselves into a delusion,” Kerry said.

“If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance,” he said.

Kerry implied that fear of a nuclear Iran should not inhibit peacemaking.

“The United States will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Kerry was blunt in rejecting arguments against peacemaking, for instance addressing who noted the rise to power of the terrorist Hamas organization in the Gaza Strip subsequent to Israel’s 2005 withdrawal and the emboldening of Hezbollah in Lebanon after Israel’s 2000 pullout.

“Remember folks, those withdrawals were unilateral,” he said, noting the bilateral agreements with Jordan and Egypt have been successful.

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