weekly Churches for Middle East Peace update
On Thursday, Secretary Kerry told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that he thinks the demand for a Jewish state as the "critical decider of [some Israeli's] attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace" is a “mistake.”
He addressed many global issues during the hearing but took time to comment on the negotiations. In a response to Rep. Brad Sherman, Kerry said, “'Jewish state' was resolved in 1947 in Resolution 181, where there are more than forty--thirty--mentions of "Jewish state." In addition, Chairman Arafat in 1988, and again in 2004, confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state…I think it's a mistake for some people to be, you know, raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace, and we've obviously made that clear. That's a conversation that will continue.” [The exchange happens at about 1:14:30 if you click on the hyperlink]
In previous statements, President Obama and Secretary Kerry have said they are committed to the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in a peace agreement and these latest comments don’t contradict that. However, Secretary Kerry is making it clear that the United States disagrees with using recognition as a roadblock to pursuing negotiations.
On Wednesday, Secretary Kerry was also on the Hill. Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17) asked him for a progress report on the negotiations and he responded, “The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I've ever seen, on both sides. Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here.” However he added, “I still believe it's possible, but difficult…. There are gaps – some of them very significant. I believe progress has been made in some areas – we hope we can get some kind of understanding about the way forward.”
On Monday, President Barack Obama will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House to try to get him on board with the framework agreement Secretary Kerry is working on to extend negotiations past their original end of April deadline.