Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of world leaders Friday that Israel ran the risk of becoming “an apartheid state” if a two-state solution was not reached in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a recording of a closed-door meeting at the Trilateral Commission, obtained by the Daily Beast, Kerry can be heard issuing the warning to officials from Western Europe, Russia and Japan.
“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,” he said.
Apartheid is defined by the 1998 Rome Statute as “inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” It is most often used to describe the official segregation and oppression of blacks in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.
U.S. officials have typically avoided use of the word in relation to Israel.
In 2008, while still a senator, Barack Obama, said “apartheid” should not be used in discussions regarding Israel.
“There’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like ‘apartheid’ into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal,” he said. “It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.”
The tough talk from Kerry came as peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians threatened to fall apart again following the announcement of an agreement between two Palestinian factions — Fatah and Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would not negotiate with Hamas because they are opposed to the very existence of Israel.
“You want to make peace with an enemy, but only with an enemy that’s decided to make peace,” Netanyahu told CBS News according to the Jerusalem Post.
“We don’t negotiate with Hamas, as long as they seek our destruction,” he added.
Current peace talks are scheduled to end April 29. Kerry can also be heard saying in recording that the U.S. may make one last attempt at peace before the Obama administration leaves office in 2017.
“We have enough time to do any number of things, including the potential at some point in time that we will just put something out there. ‘Here it is, folks. This is what it looks like. Take it or leave it,’” he said.