WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry says the Mideast peace process is on “pause” after Palestinian authorities created a unity government with the terrorist group Hamas.

“We believe the best thing to do right now is pause, take a hard look at these things, and find out what is possible and what is not possible in the days ahead,” Kerry said during a news conference in Ethiopia Thursday.

Despite Israel suspending negotiations with Palestinian authorities last week and an April 29 deadline to reach a peace deal not being met, Kerry still believes some progress was made.

“I personally remain convinced that as each (side) sort of works through the reasons that things began to become more difficult in the final hours, there may be quiet ways within which to begin to work on next steps,” Kerry stated, according to Reuters.

Kerry also said the Palestinian deal with Hamas blindsided the Obama administration.

The deal “came as a complete and total unannounced event, without any heads-up, so to speak, at the moment of important negotiations,” Kerry noted.

Kerry has come under fire after he 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 last 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 Daily 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.”

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.”

In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestinian President Mahmoud 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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