AIPAC: Kerry’s comments ‘offensive, inappropriate’

In unusually blunt rebuke, pro-Israel group blasts top diplomat, calls Israel the region’s ‘lone stable democracy’

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking at AIPAC, March 2014 (photo credit: JTA Photos)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking at AIPAC, March 2014 (photo credit: JTA Photos)

Reported comments by Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting that Israel could become an “apartheid” state if a two-state solution isn’t implemented are “offensive and inappropriate,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in an uncharacteristically biting statement Monday.

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.”

“The reported remarks on apartheid by Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday are deeply troubling,” AIPAC, thought to be the most influential pro-Israel group in Washington, said in response to the reported comments, which have not been denied by the State Department (spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday said that Kerry wasn’t referring to the current state of affairs in Israel, which “is a vibrant democracy with equal rights for its citizens”).

“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,” AIPAC’s statement added.

The organization called Israel “the lone stable democracy in the Middle East,” noted that it “protects the rights of minorities regardless of ethnicity or religion,” and “is proud to have a robust free press and elections, respect for women’s rights, and the representation of minorities across its government, including the twelve Arab members of its legislature and [Justice] Salim Joubran on its Supreme Court.”

The group noted US President Barack Obama’s 2008 repudiation of the comparison of Israel to apartheid – “It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe,” Obama said at the time – and called on “those who support peace” to urge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “to revoke his destructive agreement with the terrorist organization Hamas, and continue peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions.”

Anti-Defamation League 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.

Kerry’s comments also drew fire in Israel.

Yifa Yaakov and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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