TIME Israel

Kerry Backtracks on Israel ‘Apartheid’ Comment

SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (L) arrive to speak to the media prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, DC, April 9, 2014.

The Secretary of State wishes he could "rewind the tape" of his widely condemned remarks at a closed-door meeting on Friday, during which he said Israel risks becoming an "apartheid" state, because he has long shown support for Israel and believes in a two-state solution

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking to control the fallout from his heavily criticized remark that Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state.”

“I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes,” he said in a forceful statement released by the State Department on Monday.

“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.”

The tape being referred to is of Kerry speaking at a Friday closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission — a discussion group of U.S., Japanese and European officials. On the tape, he says that “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.”

Acquired and published by The Daily Beast, the recording prompted condemnations from across the U.S. political spectrum. Republican Senator Ted Cruz even called on the Secretary of State to resign.

In his statement, Kerry emphasized that he has shown his support for Israel not only verbally, but also “when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight.”

He pointed out that former Israeli Prime Ministers and the current Justice Minister have “all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future,” but he added that “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”

Kerry added that the word may have created a “misimpression” and said that he does “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.”

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