Kerry: Israel could become an ‘apartheid state’

US secretary of state says change of leadership on both sides might be needed for peace, according to Daily Beast recording

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US Secretary of State John Kerry (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak/File)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak/File)

If Israel does not make peace soon, it could become an “apartheid state” like South Africa, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a closed room meeting of world leaders recently, it was revealed early Monday morning.

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.”

According to the Daily Beast, Kerry also panned Israeli settlement building, said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders shared blame for the stalled peace talks, and indicated that a change in leadership on one or both sides could help the parties reach an agreement.

The top US diplomat said he might decide to present both sides with a “take it or leave it” peace deal.

A nine-month negotiating period brokered by the US is due to end on Tuesday, and US President Barack Obama said at the weekend that a “pause” in US efforts might now be necessitated. That negotiated process has collapsed in recent days, since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah on Wednesday signed a unity pact with rival Hamas, and Israel suspended all talks a day later, saying it would not negotiate with a Palestinian leadership supported 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.”

This would not be the first time Kerry expressed statements that raised hackles in Israel. “Both sides wound out in a position of unhelpful moves,” Kerry told a Senate hearing on April 8, before seeming to place the preponderance of blame on Israel.

“The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day, and then 700 units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof — that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said.

In a further departure from the crisis-stricken Israeli-Palestinian negotiating framework, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central council on Sunday adopted a plan to pursue attempts to join 60 United Nations bodies and international agreements.

Meanwhile, the central council decided to establish “the legal center for the state of Palestine,” tasked with advising the central council and the PLO’s executive committee, according to the official WAFA news agency.

Last month Abbas applied for membership in 15 international bodies and treaties, which Israel said breached a commitment agreed to before peace talks. The move came after Israel nixed a planned prisoner release.

Joining international bodies is seen as a significant unilateral diplomatic step towards Palestinian statehood, and a departure from the US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiating framework.

Elhanan Miller and AFP contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed