Kerry: I Do Not Believe Israel Is an Apartheid State

The word 'apartheid' is 'best left out of the debate here at home,' the U.S. secretary of state says in a statement.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department last week.Credit: AFP

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denied on Monday night that he in any way considered Israel to be an apartheid state.

"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, in a rare personal statement released by the U.S. State Department.

That said, Kerry did not deny that he said Israel risks turning into an 'apartheid state' in a closed meeting in Washington last week, as reported by Haaretz. The statement was greeted with dismay by Israel and heavily criticized in the United States.

"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 secretary of state said in his statement.

Noting that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Ohlmert had all "invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future," Kerry conceded that "it is a word best left out of the debate here at home."

Chemi Shalev adds that the White House was also unhappy with the uproar created by Kerry's words, according to a knowledgeable source, and likely pressed Kerry to issue his personal statement.

The secretary defended his record on Israel, saying, "for more than 30 years in the U.S. 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 Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves.

"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… I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes."

Kerry reiterated that, "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."