Kerry Admits ‘Apartheid’ Gaffe, Pushes Back at Critics

YERUSHALAYIM

Amid a storm of criticism, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that he had blundered in using the word “apartheid” to describe what could happen in Israel if the two-state solution is not implemented.

“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,” Kerry said in a statement Monday night.

But while Kerry wished he had not said it the way he did, he nevertheless stood by his warning, noting that numerous Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and predecessors Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, made similar assessments.

They “have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future,” but, he acknowledged, “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

Kerry stressed that his comment did not pertain to the current situation in Israel, only to a possible future scenario.

“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,” he said. “Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt,” and cited his 30-year record of support for Israel.

Kerry also pushed back at critics in the U.S. and Israel who expressed outrage on Monday over the gaffe which was made public just a day before the expiration of the peace talks which Kerry has labored so hard to advance.

“I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes,” he said. His word choice had been seized upon by a number of right-wing news outlets and Republican politicians.

The reaction was not strictly partisan, though. Notably, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California was also critical of Kerry’s comment, saying that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous.”

In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office declined comment on Kerry’s remarks. But Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), among others, condemned the remarks in an online statement, pointing out that it was especially inappropriate coming on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Shame on you, Kerry! There are words that mustn’t be said,” Katz wrote.

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