Saturday 20 January 2018

Israel at risk of becoming an apartheid state, warns Kerry

John Kerry: frustrated. Reuters
John Kerry: frustrated. Reuters

Robert Tait Jerusalem

John Kerry has warned that Israel risks becoming an "apartheid state" if it fails to conclude a historic peace deal with the Palestinians, in a graphic indication of his frustration at the collapse of his peace initiative.

The US secretary of state's comment, made behind closed doors at a meeting of senior international officials, broke a long-standing American taboo on comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid-era South Africa.

It is certain to damage Mr Kerry's already frayed relations with the Israeli political establishment. Underscoring the urgency of creating an independent Palestine alongside Israel, he declared: "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."

Mr Kerry's remarks, to a meeting on Friday of the trilateral commission, an influential non-governmental organisation, were disclosed yesterday in a transcript obtained by the Daily Beast website.

It is believed to be the first time a serving American official has used the word "apartheid" in relation to Israel's policies in the West Bank.


Mr Kerry's comments were made a day after Israel formally suspended peace talks in protest against a unity pact between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions.

Officials close to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, declined to respond, but there was an angry reaction from the Yesha Council, which represents Jewish settlers living in the West Bank.

"His equation of the democratic state of Israel and apartheid South Africa is a new low in American diplomacy and an insult to the people of Israel and South Africa," said Mr Dayan.

"The time has come for the American administration to quietly exit this failed process."

There was also an angry reaction from American Jewish groups, with Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, calling Mr Kerry's choice of term "startling and deeply disappointing".

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, which supported Mr Kerry's peace efforts, said his comments were "not helpful".

However, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive council, said that Mr Kerry had erred only in suggesting that an apartheid system lay in the future. "He is using the word in the future tense but [the Israelis] have already created an apartheid system in the West Bank," she said.

Barack Obama has shied away from using "apartheid" in an Israeli context. "It's emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it's not what I believe," he said during the 2008 US presidential campaign. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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