I'll have more on this speech later, but the big takeaway is that John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called, in no uncertain terms, upon Israel to do more to support Palestinian statehood -- including ending all new settlement activity. "Nothing will do more to show Israel's commitment to peace ... than freezing new settlement activity," Kerry said. "Settlements make it more difficult for Israel to support its own citizens. ... They undercut President Abbas and strengthen Hamas by convincing Palestinians there is no reward for moderation." This statement was greeted with polite applause here at the Washington Convention Center.
The best possible future, Kerry stated, would hold "two states -- one Israeli, one Palestinian -- living side by side in peace and security. The big question is how we get there." He continued, "I say this as a friend. None of us have done nearly enough to make that entity a reality. ... We must strengthen those Palestinians willing to make tough sacrifices for peace."
AIPAC's talking points and lobbying goals support a two-state solution, yet one gets the sense on the ground here at the convention that there is some real skepticism. At Mondoweiss, Phil Weiss has some thoughts on that tension. For his part, Kerry acknowledged that skepticism, saying there has been too much "process" and not enough outcome in the peace process. To reassure the skeptics, he laid out the following expectations for Arab leaders:
1. Ending Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.
2. Legitimizing Israel in the eyes of the Arab public: ending boycotts, holding public meetings between Arab and Israeli leaders, and allowing El Al to fly in Arab airspace.
3. Ending "poisonous rhetoric" toward Israeli and Jews, including in school textbooks.
On the whole though, Kerry left little doubt that he expects AIPAC and the new Israeli government to move very quickly in support of Palestinian statehood. "It is a simple truth that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution is fast closing," he warned.
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