Kerry: I Have Never Stated That Israel Is An Apartheid State

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Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States will begin a $5 billion "terrorism partnership fund" to help other countries push back against radical extremists. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States will begin a $5 billion “terrorism partnership fund” to help other countries push back against radical extremists. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly issued a warning that Israel could become “an apartheid state” if a two-state solution is not reached with the Palestinians.

The Daily Beast reports the comment was made during a closed-door meeting Friday before the Trilateral Commission, a group of analysts and experts from the U.S., Europe and Japan.

“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 said, according to a recording obtained by The Beast. “Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”

According to The Beast, Kerry said that if “there is a change of government or a change of heart” from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “something will happen.”

“The reports of the demise of the peace process have consistently been misunderstood and misreported. And even we are now getting to the moment of obvious confrontation and hiatus, but I would far from declare it dead,” Kerry reportedly said. “You would say this thing is going to hell in a hand basket, and who knows, it might at some point, but I don’t think it is right now, yet.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said Kerry’s remarks takes the discussion to “an entirely different dimension.”

“While we’ve heard Secretary Kerry express his understandable fears about alternative prospects for Israel to a two-state deal and we understand the stakes involved in reaching that deal, the use of the word ‘apartheid’ is not helpful at all. It takes the discussion to an entirely different dimension,” Harris told The Beast. “In trying to make his point, Kerry reaches into diplomatic vocabulary to raise the stakes, but in doing so he invokes notions that have no place in the discussion.”

A top pro-Israel group in Washington called Kerry’s comment “offensive and inappropriate.”

“The reported remarks on apartheid by Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday are deeply troubling,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee told The Times of Israel in a statement. “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.”

Sen. Ted Cruz said on the Senate floor Monday that Kerry should resign immediately for his reported apartheid comment.

“It is my belief that Secretary Kerry has proven himself unsuitable for the position he holds. And therefore, before any further harm is done to our national security interests and to our critical alliance with the nation of Israel, John Kerry should offer President Obama his resignation and the president should accept it,” Cruz said.

In a statement released through the State Department, Kerry insists he never called Israel an “apartheid state.”

“First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and 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 said. “Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.”

Kerry continued: “Second, 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. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve.”

Kerry’s reported comments differ from remarks then Sen. Barack Obama made in 2008 about Israel and apartheid.

“There’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal,” Obama said in a 2008 interview with The Atlantic. “It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.”

President Barack Obama said Friday that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have shown the political will to make tough decisions to advance negotiations.

Obama described a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the militant group Hamas as “unhelpful” and said it was “just one of a series of choices that both the Israelis and Palestinians have made that are not conducive to trying to resolve this crisis.”

“Folks can posture, folks can cling to maximalist positions, but realistically there is one door and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations,” Obama said. “Do I expect that they will walk through that door next week, next month or even in the course of the next six months? No.”

While he said the U.S. would continue to offer the parties “constructive approaches,” he also conceded that “there may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives.”

In an interview with CBS News Sunday, Netanyahu said that Abbas recognizing the Holocaust won’t restart peace talks.

“I think it’s an overture to American public opinion, to world opinion to try to placate and somehow smooth over the fact that he made a terrible step away from peace,” Netanyahu told “Face the Nation.” “He made a giant leap backwards, away from pace, because he embraced Hamas, that calls for the extermination of Jews worldwide, for the eradication of Israel.”

Abbas recently said that the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime” in recent history.

Netanyahu stated that they will not negotiate with a government backed by the terrorist group Hamas as long as he is prime minister.

“There are some groups, some movements, some organizations that you do not negotiate with,” Netanyahu told CBS News. “You don’t negotiate with al Qaeda … we don’t negotiate with Hamas as long as they seek our destruction. You have to be very clear on that.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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