By Erik Wasson and Rebecca Shabad - 04/28/14 03:10 PM EDT
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Monday demanded that Secretary of State John Kerry apologize to Israel for alleged comments likening the Jewish state to South Africa’s racist apartheid regime.
"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.
On Sunday, The Daily Beast reported that Kerry told a group of influential world leaders behind closed doors on Friday that Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state.”
A two-state solution is “the only real alternative,” Kerry said.
“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 added.
The article notes senior U.S. officials rarely use the term in discussions about Israel.
Kerry was speaking to the Trilateral Commission, a group of senior officials and experts from the U.S., Russia, Japan and Western Europe. He also warned the failure of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians could provoke an escalation in violence against Israelis.
According to a recording The Daily Beast obtained, Kerry told the group he might introduce his own peace deal for the two sides to “take it or leave it.”
Kerry's effort to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians has suffered major setbacks this month with the Palestinian Authority forming a unity government with Hamas, considered by many to be a terrorist organization.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has not denied that Kerry said Israel risks becoming an apartheid state.
"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. Israel is obviously a vibrant democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens," she told reporters Monday.