Israel at risk of becoming ‘apartheid state’ if peace talks fail, Kerry warns

US secretary of state warns failure could lead to resumption of Palestinian violence against Israelis

US secretary of state John Kerry: “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.” Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

US secretary of state John Kerry: “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.” Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 01:00

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has warned in a closed-door meeting that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state” if US-sponsored efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement fail.

In an apparent sign of Mr Kerry’s deep frustration over the almost certain collapse of the current nine-month round of peace talks – due to conclude today – he blamed both sides for the lack of progress and said failure could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens.

The remarks were made on Friday at the Trilateral Commission, a non-governmental organisation of experts and officials from the US, western Europe, Russia and Japan. A recording was acquired by the Daily Beast website. Mr Kerry also suggested that a change of either Israeli or Palestinian leadership might create more favourable conditions for peace and the final, long-delayed agreement on the shape of a Palestinian state.

Significant departure
His remarks represent a significant departure, as senior US officials historically have avoided the word “apartheid” relating to Israeli policies. It is believed to be the first time a US official of Mr Kerry’s standing has used the contentious term in the context of Israel.

Although the danger to Israel of a failure to move towards a two-state solution has been framed by Israeli politicians in similar terms, US officials have long been wary of following suit. When the former president Jimmy Carter used it for the tile of his 2006 book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid , it caused controversy.

Mr Kerry’s comments reflect similar recent warnings to Israel from western diplomats that the collapse of the peace talks might lead to the country’s increasing isolation.

Mr Kerry said: “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.

“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.”

– ( Guardian service)