Right-wing MKs on Monday panned a comment attributed to US Secretary of State John Kerry to the effect that if Israel does not sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the near future, it will become “an apartheid state” like South Africa.
Senior Israeli officials, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, remained mum on the reported comments.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) told The Times of Israel that not only was Kerry’s prediction false, it could also be applied to Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank far more accurately than to Israel.
“There are many alternatives [to a two-state solution] and there is room to consider them in the future. Today there is not a single Jew in Gaza, not a single Jewish soldier, and we still can see very well that hatred for Israel rules there,” he said.
“I think that the secretary of state saw for himself that it’s impossible to change reality; and the reality is that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas chose to go the way of terror and Hamas. Therefore, any effort to put blame on Israel is wrong and unfair,” Danon added.
According to a recording obtained by the Daily Beast, Kerry made the comments Friday to a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, a nongovernmental organization committed to fostering closer ties between Europe, North America, and Japan.
“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative,” Kerry told the gathering. “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. 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.”
Also responding to Kerry’s comparison Monday was Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), who wrote on his official Facebook page that “there are some words that must not be uttered.”
Katz said that on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time to reflect the atrocities inflicted on Jews by the Nazis “while the world stood silent,” Kerry’s comments stood out even more starkly against the reality of the Jewish state.
“The US secretary of state describes Israel as an apartheid state. Us? The Jewish state that rose to defend itself from existential threats? Kerry, shame on you! There are some words that must not be uttered,” Katz wrote.
In the United States, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Abraham Foxman said the American Jewish organization was “startled and disappointed” by the report that Kerry had “used the highly inappropriate and offensive term ‘apartheid’ to warn what might become of Israel should an agreement not be reached.”
Foxman said it was “startling and deeply disappointing” that a “knowledgeable, experienced” diplomat of Kerry’s caliber would choose to “use such an inaccurate and incendiary term” to describe the politics of a country with which he is so intimately familiar.
He added that while the ADL appreciated Kerry’s “deep concern for Israel and his desires to ensure that it have a future of peace and security,” his choice of words could not be seen as an expression of friendship or support.
“If he used the repugnant language of Israel’s adversaries and accusers to express concern for Israel’s future, it was undiplomatic, unwise and unfair,” Foxman said.
A nine-month negotiating period brokered by the US is due to end on Tuesday, and US President Barack Obama said over the weekend that a “pause” in US efforts might now be necessitated.
The already teetering talks finally collapsed in recent days, since Abbas’s Fatah on Wednesday signed a unity pact with rival Hamas, and Israel suspended all negotiations a day later, saying it would not sit down with a Palestinian leadership that was shored up by the Islamist terror group.
The use of the term “apartheid” to refer to Israel is likely to anger many Israeli officials. While running for president in 2008, Obama rejected associating the label with Israel, calling it “emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.”
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.