What in the name of all that is sensible was Secretary of State John Kerry thinking?
He was speaking in a closed-door event and then suggested Israel was in danger of becoming “an apartheid state” if it doesn’t work out a two-state peace treaty solution with the Palestinian Authority.
I heard it today and am shocked beyond belief at what he said. Should he resign, as some congressional and media critics have suggested? Not just yet. But he’d better have a clear explanation of what precisely he meant.
The term “apartheid” is as highly charged and offensive as they come. It was the long-standing racial separation policy used in South Africa to deny blacks any rights of full citizenship in a country in which they comprised the overwhelming majority. Only upon the release from prison of the late Nelson Mandela and the country’s first fully free and fair election in 1994 would bring an end to that heinous policy.
Now, to suggest Israel could become something similar if it doesn’t make peace with the Palestinians goes far beyond anything reasonable.
Kerry followed up his statement, recorded by The Daily Beast, with this: “… 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 has made a Middle East peace agreement his No. 1 priority since becoming secretary of state in 2013. He has worked hard to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Then this past week, the Palestinian Authority announced a unity government agreement with Hamas, the notorious terrorist group that wants to eradicate Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, understandably angry with the PA, suspended the talks.
The secretary of state has harmed the peace process further by using such inflammatory language. If there is a model of government diversity and democracy in the Middle East, it is Israel. The nation has a significant Muslim minority; its government has installed Muslims in key positions; it remains a bastion of freedom in a region governed by tyrants.
Yes, John Kerry should have chosen his words more carefully. If he cannot make it right — and soon — with Israel, then he should consider resigning.