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Kerry Admits Israel 'Apartheid' Remark Risks 'Misimpression'

The Secretary of State admitted he chose the wrong words when warning that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if it did not reach a deal.
Image: Secretary of State John Kerry
Secretary of State John Kerry delivers brief remarks to members of the news media, at the State Department in Washington DC, USA, 24 April 2014. MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

Secretary of State John Kerry admitted Monday that he chose the wrong words when warning that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” – but did not apologize for the remark.

“I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don't believe,” Kerry said in a statement.

Kerry told a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington on Friday that Israel risked becoming an "apartheid state" with two classes of citizens if negotiations to forge a peace deal with the Palestinians failed, according to a Daily Beast report that sparked criticism of the comments.

Rep Steve Israel (D-NY), the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), tweeted Tuesday that Kerry's comment "was just plain wrong.”

Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said Kerry had "effectively cursed Israel," and that he "stands for those who support the destruction of Israel. He should not be speaking for this nation."

"Secretary Kerry is both ignorant of history and of the offense of apartheid," Gohmert said Monday.

In his statement, Kerry said his comment was intended to draw attention to the risk of failing to work toward a peace deal, and noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and predecessors Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert had offered similar assessments in the past.

“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. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt,” the statement said.

“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."

-Catherine Chomiak and Alastair Jamieson