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July 26, 2014 / 28 Tammuz, 5774
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Pro-Israel Community Warms To Prospect Of John Kerry As Secretary Of State


Senator John Kerry, nominated by President Obama to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, accompanied then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on a visit to a police station in Sderot in 2009. They viewed the remains of rockets launched at Israel from Gaza.

Senator John Kerry, nominated by President Obama to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, accompanied then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on a visit to a police station in Sderot in 2009. They viewed the remains of rockets launched at Israel from Gaza.

What differentiates Kerry from Hagel, pro-Israel officials say, is his willingness to engage even when he disagrees, and his familiarity with the issues.

“Will we always agree? No,” Foxman said. “But we’re going to have in place someone who is knowledgeable, and that always works well for us.”

Daniel Mariaschin, who directs B’nai B’rith International, said he hoped that as secretary of state Kerry would show awareness of the uncertainties roiling the region, particularly in Egypt, where the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has asserted control, and in Syria, which is mired in civil war.

Even before Obama’s announcement, Kerry had the backing of Senate colleagues, Republicans as well as Democrats. He has a longstanding friendship with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz); both men are Vietnam veterans and in the 1980s paved the way to reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam.

The pick earned quick plaudits from a leading pro-Israel stalwart in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

“As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has worked to marshal support for tough sanctions against Iran and defend our ally Israel, and played a critical role as an envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Lowey said in a statement.

Kerry has a solid voting record on issues favored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but rarely has taken the lead on legislation AIPAC favors.

Kerry was a leader in the 1980s on Soviet Jewry issues in Congress, and he has maintained close ties with the successors to the Soviet Jewry advocacy movement, said Mark Levin, who directs NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia.

“For the last 20 years he’s been intimately involved in every issue impacting the U.S.-Russia relationship,” Levin said. “He’s had an open door on Russia when it comes to xenophobia and anti-Semitism.”

(JTA)

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Obama in an April 25 press conference seemed ready to take a break. “There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” he said.

Secretary of State Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu

Obama himself suggested that a break from the process may be necessary.

But Israel’s stance is not sufficiently consequential to set off a fight between friends, neoconservative scholars said.

Tensions between Russia and the West are mounting over the Russian military takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, with the United States and European countries threatening to impose sanctions.

Expansive outreach, of course, is nothing new for AIPAC. But in the wake of battles over Iran sanctions legislation that pitted the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse against the White House, many congressional Democrats and liberals more generally, AIPAC’s traditional emphasis on Israel as a bipartisan issue has taken on added urgency.

Administration officials and Jewish groups sympathetic to Kerry’s initiative say there is a longer-term agenda in preempting attacks on the framework peace agreement the Obama administration is expected to propose soon.

“As we have since the beginning of the process, we continue to support Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a secure and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman said in a statement to JTA.

WASHINGTON – Until recently, the rule of thumb in the pro-Israel community was that the bigger the academic group, the less likely it was to consider a boycott of Israeli colleagues.

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