Kerry walks back ‘apartheid’ remark

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Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that he "would have chosen a different word" after telling  a closed-door meeting that Israel risked becoming an "apartheid state" if it was unable to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians.

"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 said in a statement.

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The remarks, first reported in the Daily Beast, have resulted in a political firestorm for Kerry, and led Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to call for Kerry's resignation on the Senate floor.

“Secretary Kerry has proven himself unsuitable for the position he holds,” Cruz said. “John Kerry should offer President Obama his resignation.”

In his statement, Kerry called Israel a "vibrant democracy" and said he did "not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one."

He also insisted he would "not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes."

But the statement was a tacit acknowledgment of the fallout caused by his comments.

Earlier Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) demanded that Kerry apologize to Israel over his comments.

"Reports that Secretary Kerry has suggested Israel is becoming an apartheid state are extremely disappointing. 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,” Cantor said.

"President Obama has rejected the use of the term apartheid in the past, correctly saying it is historically inaccurate and emotionally loaded. I hope that President Obama will again reiterate these views, and call on Secretary Kerry to apologize to the Israeli government and people,” he added.

Kerry's bid to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was effectively scuttled earlier this month when the Palestinian Authority forming a unity government with Hamas, considered by Israel to be a terrorist organization. The move — in response to Israel's refusal to release Palestinian prisoners — led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pull out of the talks.

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