By Julie Schonfeld
Last week I attended a small meeting with a number of Jewish communal representatives with Secretary of State John Kerry and the President's National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice, who gave an update on the current peace negotiations. New Middle East envoy Martin Indyk was also present, as were other members of the Administration's security team. The meeting, which was off the record and lasted almost an hour and a half, provided the opportunity for representatives of American Jewish organizations to ask questions about the process and to probe issues pertaining to our highest priority, which is always Israel's safety and security.
After years of stalemate and disappointment, enthusiasm for a resumption of negotiations was initially slow to build, but the progress of the past few weeks has exceeded expectations and built momentum, especially the warm rapport demonstrated by Minister Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat in the aftermath of their first meeting.
Communal consensus supporting a two-state solution has been strong for some time and was strongly felt in the room last night. The records of support for Israel of both Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Rice have created an underlying spirit of cooperation, openness and trust in past meetings and again in this one.
Many of our rabbis who were present at the AIPAC Policy Conference in 2011 had the opportunity to meet and dialogue with Ambassador Rice at the rabbis' lunch and again at our RA meeting. As she has moved to the position of National Security Advisor, her exceptional abilities and her unwavering willingness in the UN to stand with Israel is reassuring as Israel reenters negotiations.
Lasting peace for Israel is one of the deepest wishes that we all share. Only historians will say definitively when the beginnings of a successful process actually began. As we live day to day, we can only direct our actions in the most positive and constructive way. Everyone in the room last week acknowledged the profound challenges we face, but we were among friends and partners, and with this I enter Shabbat with an increased feeling of hope.