Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

John Kerry Regrets Israel ‘Apartheid’ Remark After Bipartisan Criticism

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Under bipartisan fire on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a sharply worded statement of his own regretting his use of the word “apartheid” to describe Israel’s future without a deal with the Palestinians.

In his statement, Kerry said he has long fought to support Israel during his 30 years in the Senate and as secretary of State.

“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,” he said.

He said he doesn’t believe that Israel is an apartheid state or “intends to be come one.”

“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,” he said.

And while several Israeli leaders have used the word “apartheid,” Kerry added, “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

Earlier Monday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had sharply criticized his remarks, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who called for Kerry’s resignation. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., also issued a critical statement.

And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., tweeted friendly fire in Kerry’s direction.

Here’s Kerry’s full statement:

“For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel, I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.

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.

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. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.

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. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

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