Israeli Newspaper Ha´aretz, Online Edition, July 14, 2004:
Kerry's brother reassures Israel of strong support
The brother of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry met Israeli leaders on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to ease any concerns about the U.S. senator's commitment to the Jewish state.
Cameron Kerry (left) shaking
hands with Shimon Peres
during Cam Kerry´s visit to
Israel in July 2004.
[image from original Ha´aretz article]
Some Israeli officials have fretted privately that a Kerry victory
in November's election could lead to a shift away from Middle East
policies of President George W. Bush, whom they see as more staunchly
pro-Israel than any U.S. leader in decades.
A Jewish convert and adviser to his brother, Cameron Kerry was sent as a "surrogate" to reassure Israelis that the Democratic candidate was as strong a supporter as Bush, a source who helped arrange the trip said.
Kerry, who described his four-day trip as a "personal visit," met Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and opposition leader Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
"My brother has been here many times and told me of his trips and has a very deep, personal connection to Israel," Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem. "I finally had the opportunity to make a visit and I jumped at the chance."
He also planned to tour Israel's controversial West Bank barrier, which the World Court declared illegal in a non-binding decision last week.
While campaigning for his party's nomination, Kerry angered Israel supporters last October when he told an Arab-American group the vast array of walls and fences being built through occupied land was a "barrier to peace".
Kerry's campaign has since taken pains to stress his pro-Israel voting record in the Senate, and Israeli government analysts have concluded there is nothing to fear if he is elected to the White House. But some Sharon aides worry that a change of U.S. administrations could jeopardize unprecedented commitments that Bush gave the prime minister in April to allow Israel to keep some West Bank land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
"There are concerns in the government that Kerry won't be as pro-Israel as Bush has been," a Sharon confidant said.
Sharon had cited a scheduling conflict for his failure to meet the Democratic candidate while visiting Washington in April. Mindful of maintaining good relations with Bush, Sharon kept a low profile for his brief meeting with Kerry's brother.
Cameron Kerry - who converted to Judaism in the 1980s before marrying his Jewish wife - was accompanied on the trip by Jay Footlik, the campaign's senior adviser on the Middle East and Jewish affairs.
The visit was sponsored by the American Israel Education Fund, affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.