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Kerry backs off Israel 'apartheid state' comment

By Associated Press in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2014-04-30 07:34

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday he had chosen the wrong word in describing Israel's potential future after coming under withering criticism for saying the Jewish state could become an "apartheid state" if it doesn't reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

In a statement released by the State Department, Kerry lashed out against "partisan political" attacks against him, but acknowledged his comments last week to a closed international forum could have been misinterpreted.

"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 after US lawmakers and pro-Israel groups criticized him, with some demanding his resignation or at least an apology.

"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," he 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," Kerry said.

On Sunday, US news website The Daily Beast reported that Kerry had told a closed-door meeting on 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 fail and a two-state solution is not reached.

Kerry defended his general point, noting that numerous Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, have made similar points in the past. But, he added that "apartheid" is "a word best left out of the debate here at home."

Kerry invested significant time and energy last year into bringing the two sides to the negotiating table with the goal of reaching a deal in nine months. That deadline expired on Tuesday with the parties having failed to reach an accord, a less ambitious framework deal or even an agreement to extend the negotiations.

(China Daily 04/30/2014 page11)

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