Kerry's Mideast peace mission

It is easy to be cynical and pessimistic. There are reasons the conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians have continued so long and been so intractable. But I cannot remember when a new secretary of State has been so committed, passionate and skillful as Kerry is being today.

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I recommend to all a movie called "The Gatekeepers," in which all six living former directors of the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet, strongly support a two-state solution as serving the interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

This view is widely held by a long list of the most respected military, security and intelligence voices in Israel. Their support gives me the greatest hope that negotiations, though they will be hard, can ultimately succeed. Israel, like the Palestinians, has major decisions to make. May they choose wisely. 

My view has long been that it would be helpful for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a true national unity government that would include Israeli liberals, conservatives and centrists. My guess is that this may someday be in the cards for agreements to be both reached and ratified.

The question for Netanyahu will be whether he can become a conservative, like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, with enough vision to seize negotiating opportunities and make history. Candidly, based on his history, I am not profoundly optimistic, but it is certainly possible. 

For the same reasons, I have urged the beginning of a new Marshall Plan that would be contingent on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine being formalized and would then create a program of $1 trillion over three years of aid, trade and credits that would help Israel, Palestine, Jordan and a democratic Egypt lift their standards of living with a "peace dividend."

I fully support and applaud Kerry's initiative to create a significant economic and financial package of nearly $4 billion for the Palestinians and believe this is an excellent first step. And I applaud his designating some leading American business leaders to further advance this project.

Throughout the Mideast, far too many people — Muslims, Jews and Christians — have endured and suffered death, poverty and economic hardship as hatred and carnage have trumped hope, common sense and common interests. 

Kerry is a man on a mission, a mission with the potential to change history and serve the interests of our country and every country and people in the region who have suffered far too much, for far too long.

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