by Donna R. Gary, NCJW Honorary Vice President
A few days ago I represented NCJW at the White House for a briefing from Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice on the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. As a longtime resident of Washington, DC, I must admit that I often take for granted the enormous power that is concentrated here and the vast possibilities that are ever present – not this time. Not with this meeting. Not with this topic. I left this meeting keenly aware of both power and possibility.
Secretary Kerry and NSA Advisor Rice met with a select group of leaders from the organized Jewish community for a conversation relative to the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Martin Indyk, top Middle East peace negotiator, also attended. It was an honor to represent NCJW – one of only two women’s organizations in the room.
It was a drizzly, gray early evening on August 8. After going through several layers of security, I was escorted to a room with an enormous conference table set up for a small number of people. The meeting was entirely off the record, and there were no introductions around the table. It was a serious gathering of serious minds with a serious intention.
Secretary Kerry praised the decision of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to come to the table. Both Secretary Kerry and NSA Advisor Rice shared their comments on the process and invited questions. The ensuing question and answer session was engaging and informative. Security for Israel and the region was addressed. Personally, I am deeply moved by the engagement and dedication of the United States to help bring peace to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The most desirable environment for the actual negotiations is a highly private one. However, public support for the talks in general is critical to a positive outcome. In that vein, NCJW applauded the White House when the talks were announced and continues to be supportive. Individually, we can all do the same. Collectively, we are most fortunate to have NCJW as our megaphone.
The time for peace is now. Many critical variables are aligned right now – as never before – to support an agreement. I left the meeting with optimism and confidence in the cast of players involved in the talks. There are brilliant people on all sides of the negotiations with the capacity this time to make it work.
With encouragement and support, let’s pray that they do so.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about the important role woman play in peace negotiations in this exclusive piece by Shari Eshet for the Huffington Post.]