CMEP Bulletin: Kerry, The A-Word, and Not Giving Up
Weekly update from Churches for Middle East Peace
After last week’s Hamas-Fatah agreement was signed, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were officially put on pause as the details of that agreement get hammered out. U.S. envoy Martin Indyk left the region and President Obama cited a lack of, “political will to actually make tough decisions” on both sides for the current suspension of talks. However, it was a statement by Secretary Kerry mentioning apartheid that made headlines.
On Sunday, the Daily Beast reported that Secretary Kerry told a group of businessmen: “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.”
Despite Secretary Kerry’s remarks clearly referencing a future danger of not making peace, the semantic outrage was swift. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, responded, “The use of the word ‘apartheid’ is not helpful at all. It takes the discussion to an entirely different dimension… In trying to make his point, Kerry reaches into diplomatic vocabulary to raise the stakes, but in doing so he invokes notions that have no place in the discussion.”
Secretary Kerry quickly released a statement which said, “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.” He also said that while many Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have invoked the specter of the word apartheid, “it is a word best left out of the debate here [in the U.S.].”
Despite the clarification, the seeds for debate were sown. In the Jerusalem Post, Gershon Baskin repeated Secretary Kerry’s words and “[believes] in every single one of them.” He tells his fellow Israelis to “wake up!” and face what he says is a reality.