Middle East/North Africa

John Kerry Backpedals On Controversial Israel Remarks

Courtesy: U.S. State Department

Courtesy: U.S. State Department

Secretary of State John Kerry has released a statement backpedaling and clarifying his recent remarks warning that Israel could become “an apartheid state.”  The statement said that Kerry would have used different words if he could go back in time, but what he meant to say was that the only true way for peace is a two state solution.  the words caused a great deal of controversy and condemnation from a source within the Israeli government.  The comment came during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, where he was speaking on the breakdown of the talks between Israelis and Palestinians.  A Daily Beast reporter had recorded the exchange while present at the meeting.

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Secretary of State John Kerry, under fire for warning that Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state” in the absence of a peace deal, released a statement Monday evening pushing back hard.

“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 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 spectrum of right to left, the condemnations rolled in Monday. Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman called the apartheid comment “startling and deeply disappointing.” 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, 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.”

“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,” Kerry said. “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.”

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