Most recently, Kerry hosted a delegation of Arab states to discuss the revival of the Arab Peace Initiative for a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state. At the end of the talks, the ministers agreed to sweeten a decade-old Arab League proposal by easing its demand that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders and accept the possibility of tweaking the borders with agreed-upon land swaps. In the absence of any progress on the peace process, he convinced the Arabs to take a huge leap of faith.
"In a short period of time, Secretary Kerry has been able to significantly affect the framework in which the parties are engaging and that is something," said Robert Wexler, the former congressman from Florida who is now president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Wexler noted that George Mitchell, the former U.S. envoy for Mideast peace, had tried to gain the same concessions with no success.
Mistrust in Mideast could trump Kerry's acumen
Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs alike seem impressed with Kerry's drive. The challenge, they all say, lies in the mistrust between the parties rather than Kerry's diplomatic acumen.
"We are impressed with his enthusiasm and drive," one Arab diplomat said. "He wants to take on the issues. The political environment isn't encouraging, but if the president and Kerry want to try and bring the Israelis and Palestinians together, we are not going to be the problem."
Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said, "He landed running and is still running, and we want to run with him. He wants to move quickly; we want to move quickly. We are all intensely serious. The issue is whether we are going to be able to get the Palestinians back to the table."
Kerry seems to have a far rosier view of the Middle East peace process than his boss, maybe because he is coming to it with fresh eyes. Having more than once tried and failed to restart peace talks, Obama has had years of a poisonous pill and is said to be skeptical about the prospects for a peace deal. The hope is that the White House will become more invested as Kerry shows some degree of progress.
Allies seem impressed with Kerry's willingness to engage and ask their opinions. South Korean President Park Geun-hye teased Kerry during a meeting in Seoul in which he asked a lot of questions.
But some diplomats say while consultation is key, it remains to be seen if Kerry can deliver with the White House.
In Washington, there is a fear Kerry may be raising too many expectations, writing a bunch of checks he can't cash on a host of issues. If he starts to freelance or strays too far from the White House script, Kerry may well find himself alone on an island. Even America's top diplomat has a short leash.
"Even if the instinct is to do things on his own, he is smart enough to know that a secretary of state cannot afford to lose the confidence of the White House," one senior White House official said. "The president decides what the policy is, and he has to respect those bounds."
For now, Obama seems willing to let Kerry put himself out there. Officials said the White House appreciates Kerry's enthusiasm and feels it could produce results if harnessed the right way.
But Obama bears some responsibility for doing that harnessing. More than one foreign policy expert has said Kerry has what it takes to become one of the great secretaries of state, along the lines of Henry Kissinger, James Baker and George Shultz. The one thing they all had in common is a president who trusted them, not just to implement foreign policy but to formulate it.
For a White House admittedly controlling over foreign policy, that will be no easy task.