U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

If U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry learned anything in his first six months on the job, it is that persistence pays. Having traveled to the Middle East no fewer than six times between March and July, he did the impossible: Following months - if not years - of foot-dragging, he persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to soften their intransigence and carry out mutual goodwill gestures. His tenacious lobbying culminated last week with his announcement that talks between Israel and the Palestinians would resume after three years of deadlock.

Kerry, who was a U.S. senator for Massachusetts from 1985 until taking over as Washington's top diplomat, maintained a cordial relationship with his state's Jewish community throughout his career. In 2004, as the Democratic presidential candidate, he voiced his commitment to Israel's security, but proved insufficient to dethrone President George W. Bush, who was reelected.

Kerry's dogged peacemaking-push emanates from a burning sense of urgency. "The window for a two-state solution is shutting," he told a Congressional panel recently, insisting that the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel – Washington's years-long desired goal – may soon become unfeasible.

"The parties have agreed that all of the final status issues, core issues and other issues are on the table for negotiations," Kerry saidat the launch event last week, outlining his main achievement to date. The objective, he said, is to reach a final status agreement within nine months.