US Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting to backtrack on recently exposed secret comments he made saying Israel would become an “apartheid state.” The secretary vehemently denied the allegations on Monday that he called Israel “an apartheid state.”
In a strongly worded statement, Kerry 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. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.”
The secretary of state did acknowledge that he used a poor choice of words in his speech to members of the Trilateral Commission.
“I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and 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,” he stated.
Outraged at Kerry’s comments, many Jewish organizations and several US and Israeli leaders have made calls for the secretary’s resignation. Senator Ted Cruz said that Kerry has “repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to countenance a world in which Israel is made a pariah.”
Cruz stated that “before any more harm is done to our national security interests and our critical alliance with the state of Israel,” Kerry should resign as secretary of state and President Barack Obama should “accept it.”
Representative Louie Gohmert said that Kerry was “ignorant of history.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator John McCain have called on Kerry to apologize for the comment.
The US State Department is not denying that Kerry made the comments. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated that she refused to confirm private comments made by the secretary. “The secretary does not believe and did not state publicly or privately that Israel is an apartheid state, and there’s an important difference there,” she said.
The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released a statement in which they said “any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate. The Jewish state is a shining light for freedom and opportunity in a region plagued by terror, hate and oppression.”
Quoting an interview given by President Obama in 2008, AIPAC referred to the president’s own words: “The use of the term ‘apartheid’ to characterize Israel is inaccurate and unhelpful.”
“Israel is the lone stable democracy in the Middle East and protects the rights of minorities regardless of ethnicity or religion,” continued the statement. “The Jewish state is proud to have a robust free press and elections, respect for women’s rights, and the representation of minorities across its government, including the twelve Arab members of its legislature and Salim Joubran on its Supreme Court.”
The Republican Jewish Council (RJC) condemned Kerry and insisted Obama take action. “Kerry’s language is not just inflammatory and inaccurate, it also jeopardizes American peace process efforts,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks.
“It will further encourage the Palestinians to act and speak as if only Israel must make concessions in the peace process, even as the Obama administration has stressed that the Palestinians must make ‘very, very tough decisions’ for peace,” Brooks added.
“President Obama must clarify whether Secretary Kerry’s statement reflects his administration’s views and policy,” said Brooks.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it was “startled and disappointed” by reports of Kerry’s comments. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said that “It is startling and deeply disappointing that a diplomat so knowledgeable and experienced about democratic Israel chose to use such an inaccurate and incendiary term.”
Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz sharply criticized Kerry over his comments. In a statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, Katz said, “We hear terrible description of how the Nazis and their collaborators, drenched in hate and race theory, turned millions of defenseless Jews into dust and ashes – ad the world stood by in silence.”
“And now the Secretary of State describes Israel as an ‘apartheid state.’ Us? The Jewish state which was established to protect itself and was intimidated with threats of extermination?”
“Kerry, shame on you!” he proclaimed. “There are things you just can’t say.”