Mideast peace: Kerry's pause that refreshes

Secretary of State John Kerry, in my view one of the most consequential secretaries since George Marshall served under President Truman, is effectively taking a short-term pause in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Whether this pause is formally declared or not, this is what is happening. My hope is that this will be the pause that refreshes as Israelis and Palestinians consider their next moves, and consider the consequences if negotiations fail.

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There is no person on earth who is more committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and more qualified by temperament and experience to achieve it, than John Kerry. He has done what American leaders have tried to do since 1948: give steadfast support to protecting the security of Israel while acting as an honest broker to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.

One thing is obvious: The Middle East peace negotiations are now in trouble. But let's be clear: Kerry is not trying to achieve a news cycle success. He is trying to achieve a lasting and permanent peace. It is useful to step back, take a pause, and ask both Israelis and Palestinians what they are ready to do for peace.

Regarding the Israelis, the best thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could do is create a true national unity government that includes Israeli liberals, moderates and conservatives. It is mathematically impossible for the current Israeli government coalition to ever reach a lasting peace with Palestinians. It is far too dependent on factions that would never agree to terms acceptable enough to Palestinians to achieve true peace. Israel needs to freeze settlement activity, a policy which American presidents from both parties have urged.

Similarly, Palestinians need to make it clear, publicly, that they will respond to Israeli concessions with concessions of their own. Note that regarding the recent application of Palestinians to join various international organizations, it takes time for applications to be processed, which leaves time for diplomacy.

I particularly applaud the leadership of Kerry and President Obama in increasing economic aid to Palestinians, and repeat my long-term call for a major Marshall Plan that would provide massive economic aid, trade, loans and credits to Israel, Palestine, and neighboring nations that support and achieve comprehensive peace plans.

Kerry is right to pause and reflect on the future of Mideast talks. I do not believe that Netanyahu will like what he sees in a world without Kerry seeking Mideast peace. Nor will Palestinians. Kerry should be applauded throughout the nation and around the world for his efforts, and during the coming days of pause and reflection Israel and her neighbors should all consider what they can do to advance these efforts, and consider the epic tragedy for the region if peace negotiations fail.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.