Sen. John Kerry at the Democratic Convention 370 (R).
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Newly sworn-in US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to visit the Middle East
as part of his first trip in his new role, including stops in Israel and
The trip could take place as soon as mid-February, CNN reported on
Friday, citing a US official.
Kerry, replacing Hillary Clinton as
secretary of state, was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday before being sworn in
Kerry suggested this week that time was running out for a
two-state solution with Israel living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state.
He said it would be “disastrous” if it did.
Former senior US peace
negotiators said they expected Obama to proceed cautiously and to let Kerry take
soundings for any fresh effort. That could allow Obama to avoid investing too
much personal capital in a fresh effort until there was a prospect of real
“I believe that Kerry and Obama are committed and interested in
doing something,” said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow
Wilson International Center for Scholars, who advised Democratic and Republican
secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from 1982 to
However, Miller said the two sides were too far apart right now for
any big initiative to succeed and that a more circumspect approach made more
“Unlike last time around...
[Obama] is going to be quite
patient and deliberate in avoiding the mistakes he made during his previous run,
which is why it’s really hard right now... to predict the arc of any sort of big
initiative,” he said.
While neither Kerry nor Obama have specified what
approach they might take, some of Kerry’s allies outside of government have
suggested that he wants to move aggressively.
Miller and other former US
diplomats interviewed said they were not privy to what plans, if any, the two
men might have.
However, they said Obama’s second term offered a new
chance with Kerry, a chief diplomat who has made no secret of his interest in
the Middle East, and that the January 22 Israeli election created a somewhat
better environment for peace despite the intrinsic challenges.
watched the peace process unfold, and unravel, from his perch on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee over the past three decades, analysts say Kerry has
a deep knowledge of the issues and its players.
Among the obstacles are
the divisions within the Israeli and Palestinian societies about making peace; a
sense of disbelief that peace itself may ever be possible; and the rise of
Islamist parties, notably in Egypt, that may be less supportive of it.
his January 24 confirmation hearing, Kerry said, “My hope... my prayer is that
perhaps this can be a moment where we can renew some kind of effort to get the
parties into a discussion.
“We need to try to find a way forward, and I
happen to believe that there is a way forward,” he said, but added: “I also
believe that if we can’t be successful, the door... to the possibility of a
two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be
Reuters contributed to this report.
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