STATE DEPARTMENT — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is asking American Jewish leaders to help break a deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that he says helps fuel extremism and terrorism across the world. Kerry says he is considering another trip to the region to push talks forward.
Kerry is trying to revive a sense of urgency in the Middle East peace process, saying the relative stability of today is not guaranteed tomorrow.
"And the people who think somehow because there is a fence and because there has been greater security and fewer people hurt are lulling themselves into a delusion that that somehow can be sustained. It can not be," said Kerry.
He told a Washington meeting of the American Jewish Committee that the Palestinian Authority's commitment to non-violence is Israel's best chance for a two-state solution.
"If that experiment is allowed to fail, ask yourselves: What will replace it? What will happen if the Palestinian economy implodes? If the Palestinian security forces dissolve? If the Palestinian Authority fails? Surely something much worse for Israel's interests and for America's and for the region," he said.
Kerry says the failure of the current Palestinian leadership could bring about the same kind of extremism in the West Bank that Israelis are facing from Hamas in Gaza and from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
"So before anybody gives up on this hope, we have to ask whether we are prepared to live with permanent conflict, with the possibility of widespread civil disobedience, with the possibility of a civil rights movement that grows in the West Bank, with the possibility of another Intifada always looming around the corner," he said.
If there is no return to peace talks, Palestinian leaders already have said they will seek to join more United Nations organizations and will seek to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court.
Kerry told the Jewish group the United States will always have Israel's back and will always stand up for Israel's security. "But wouldn't we both be stronger," he asked, "if we had some company?"
Kerry has met repeatedly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since taking over as secretary of state in February. He says "both sides are weighing the choices that they have in front of them very, very seriously" and he will decide "at some point" whether he needs to return to the region "to go push a little bit or help that process."