American lawmakers did not take long to call for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after media reported he slapped the “apartheid” threat at Israel during remarks at a closed-door session with the Trilateral Commission Friday in Washington D.C.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-VA) released a statement Monday calling Kerry’s remarks “extremely disappointing.”
Cantor, who is Jewish, added, “The use of the word ‘apartheid’ has routinely been dismissed as both offensive and inaccurate, and Secretary Kerry’s use of it makes peace even harder to achieve.” The Number 2 House leader said that Kerry should “apologize to the Israeli government and people.”
Cantor wasn’t the only one.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) posted a tweet on the Twitter social networking site, noting, “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) outright called for Kerry’s resignation on the Senate floor, in a statement reported by Fox News. “Mr. President, it is my belief that Secretary Kerry has thus proven himself unsuitable for his position and that before any furher harm is done to our alliance with Israel he should offer President Obama his resignation, and the president should accept it.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called Kerry’s remarks “outrageous and disappointing,” and noted that “incendiary name calling does not change the fundamental fact that Israel does not currently have a viable partner for peace.” Rubio urged Kerry and the rest of the Obama administration to focus on the crisis in Syria and the Iranian nuclear threat, “instead of pressuring Israel to make additional concessions to partners who have now chosen to align themselves with a terrorist group.”
While State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki did what she could to repair the damage, it was impossible to deny that Kerry had said in private remarks to the Trilateral Commission on Friday that Israel could become an apartheid state if a two-state solution is not reached with the Palestinian Authority.
“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 a recording of his remarks obtained by The Daily Beast. “Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”
Because a denial is simply impossible, Psaki sidestepped the issue in a news briefing, saying instead, “The secretary does not believe and did not state publicly or privately that Israel is an apartheid state, and there’s an important difference there.” (italics added)
As the pressure mounted for his resignation, Kerry later went on the defense Monday night with his own statement.
“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.
“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.”
Hana Levi Julian
About the Author: Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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