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Kerry backs off Israel ‘apartheid’ comment

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Secretary of State John Kerry, on an awkward situation that Israel in a dangerous condition of becoming “an apartheid state” in the absence of a peace deal, released a statement Monday evening pushing back hard.

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“I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes,” Kerry said in a release put out by the State Department. “… If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”

The tape in question was published by the Daily Beast on Sunday – a recording of Kerry’s comments to a meeting of the Trilateral Commission on Friday in which he lamented the breakdown of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens – or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry says in the recording

From across the broad range of right to left, the accusations rolled in Monday. Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman called the apartheid comment “startling and deeply disappointing.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said the comment was “deeply troubling” and “inappropriate.” In a statement, AIPAC said, “Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate.”

In addition, Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks called it “inflammatory and inaccurate.” The National Jewish Democratic Council expressed its “deep disappointment.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called on Kerry to resign.

Kerry was speaking at the end of the most difficult week yet in his attempts to make progress on peace between the Israelis and Palestinians – and just ahead of the official April 29 deadline for extending negotiations.

About a few weeks ago, Kerry left the region in frustration and declared “reality-check time” when the two sides could not agree to terms in a prisoner exchange. Just last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to strike a reconciliation deal with Hamas – which the United States and Israel designate a terrorist organization, but which has political control in the Gaza Strip – ending a nearly decadelong split between that group and Abba’s Palestinian Authority, which has control over the West Bank.

Abbas to reach out to Hamas drew the accusation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Israel would never negotiate with a government that accepts Hamas, which officially calls for the destruction of Israel. In response, the State Department said last week it acknowledged that the reconciliation would create conditions that the Israelis can’t be expected to negotiate under.

President Barack Obama gave his disappointed assessment of the status of the peace process at a news conference Friday in South Korea, adding his point of warning.

“There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause, and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” Obama said.

Obama said: “There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause, and both sides need to look at the alternatives. As I’ve said in the past and I will continue to repeat: Nobody has offered me a serious scenario in which peace is not made between Israelis and Palestinians and we have a secure, democratic Jewish state of Israel and the Palestinians have a state.”

Kerry announced officially that he was hopeful earlier last week – however, by Friday, special peace envoy Martin Indyk was headed back to Washington and the secretary of state was blaming both sides in a private meeting with leaders from North America, Western Europe and Japan.

The “apartheid” reference in those remarks was an attempt to warn what might happen if the two sides aren’t able to reach a solution – though in his apology he said, “I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.”

Kerry, in his statement, said that everything in his record showed him to be a strong supporter of Israel, arguing that his word choice had created a “misimpression.”

Kerry said: “For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel. I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister [Tzipi] Livni [who is leading peace talks for the Israelis] because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two-state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.”

“While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers [Ehud] Barak and [Ehud] Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future,” Kerry concluded, “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

Source: Politico

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