Supporters of Israel are using words ranging from “not helpful” to “appalling” and “disgusting” in reaction to a Daily Beast report that Secretary of State John Kerry, in a closed-door meeting Friday, warned that Israel could become “an apartheid state” if it does not make peace with the Palestinians soon.
In a recording of his remarks obtained by the Daily Beast, Kerry also repeated a threat he has made previously that if the Israeli government does not seal a peace deal soon, there could be a resurgence of Palestinian violence against Israel.
Here are a couple of examples the reactions:
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) April 28, 2014
— Monica Crowley (@MonicaCrowley) April 28, 2014
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman told TheBlaze Monday morning that the Israeli government did not yet have a specific response to Kerry’s remarks other than referring to a clarification tweet that State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki issued overnight.
@JohnKerry does not think and has never said Israel is an apartheid state. 2 nations, 2 peoples living peacefully needs 2 state solution
— Jen Psaki (@statedeptspox) April 28, 2014
The writer of the Daily Beast report responded:
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) April 28, 2014
The slow response from Israel could be due to the nation marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, a 24-hour commemoration filled with nationwide memorial ceremonies and the sounding of air raid sirens bringing traffic to a stop in memory of those killed by the Nazis during World War II.
The front pages of the major Israeli news sites Monday morning showed Holocaust survivor tributes positioned starkly next to reports about Kerry’s comments. Here are several examples:
The Daily Beast reported that American Jewish leaders were “fuming” over Kerry’s comparison of Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, noting that U.S. officials have rarely used the loaded term to describe Israel and that President Barack Obama had rejected using the word in reference to Israel.
“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. 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,” Kerry said according to the Daily Beast.
According to the purported recording of Kerry’s remarks to senior European, Russian and Japanese officials with the Trilateral Commission that the Daily Beast obtained, Kerry repeated a warning he has made previously that a collapse of Middle East peace talks could spark a new round of Palestinian violence against Israelis. He also suggested that a change in the Israeli or Palestinian governments could help moved forward the peace process that he has been spearheading, which has all but collapsed in recent weeks.
The Emergency Committee for Israel, an American pro-Israel group has called on Kerry to either resign or be fired by President Obama.
In a statement posted on its website Monday, the Committee said of the use of the word apartheid, “Even Barack Obama condemned the use of this term when running for president in 2008. Yet this was no gaffe. Secretary Kerry’s musings on the Jewish state’s dire future have become a regular feature of his public remarks. His latest prediction follows other statements in recent months that have in effect threatened Israel — never the Palestinians — with a list of disasters should his diplomatic efforts fail: violence, isolation, delegitimization, boycotts — and now ‘apartheid.’”
“It is no longer enough for the White House to clean up after the messes John Kerry has made. It is time for John Kerry to step down as Secretary of State, or for President Obama to fire him,” the Emergency Committee for Israel wrote.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee which has supported Kerry’s peacemaking efforts, told the Daily Beast that “the use of the word ‘apartheid’ is not helpful at all. It takes the discussion to an entirely different dimension.”
The Daily Beast noted that despite the criticism of Kerry, at least two Israeli officials have also used the term. For example, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in 2010, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.”
“If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state,” Barak said.
In defense of Kerry’s word choice, State Department spokeswoman Psaki on Twitter linked to an article from Think Progress last year quoting Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who heads the Israeli peace negotiating team warning of a possible “apartheid state.”
In February, Kerry was criticized in Israel after invoking the threat that Israeli could be boycotted if it did not agree to a framework peace agreement. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz called Kerry’s remark “offensive and unacceptable,” adding that Israel should not be forced to negotiate with the Palestinians with “a gun against its head.”
And in November, Kerry warned of possible boycotts of Israel as well as a third intifada, a violent Palestinian uprising, if peace talks were to fail.
The Daily Beast reported that Kerry on Friday repeated this warning about new Palestinian violence.
“People grow so frustrated with their lot in life that they begin to take other choices and go to dark places they’ve been before, which forces confrontation,” he said.
Kerry also insisted that the peace process was not dead, telling the senior officials, “And even we are now getting to the moment of obvious confrontation and hiatus, but I would far from declare it dead … You would say this thing is going to hell in a hand basket, and who knows, it might at some point, but I don’t think it is right now, yet.”
See the entire report from the Daily Beast at this link.