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Kerry Echoes Barak and Olmert, Warns Israel Risks Becoming an Apartheid State

April 29, 2014

According to the Daily Beast, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned a closed-door meeting on Friday that Israel risks becoming "an apartheid state" if a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians is not reached soon. While many of the usual suspects among Israel's hardline supporters in the United States will be apoplectic, any rage towards Kerry will be misplaced. After all, recent Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak said pretty much the same thing.
In the recording of discussions obtained by the Daily Beast, Kerry reportedly fretted about Israel's future if an accommodation with an independent Palestinian state does not come to fruition:

"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," Kerry told the group of senior officials and experts from the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Japan. "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."

If that dire prediction sounds familiar, it should. That's because over just the past several years, two Israeli PM's made the same prediction.
In February 2010, Ehud Barak, the celebrated Israeli war hero turned Defense Minister in Bibi Netanyahu's government delivered this stark warning to the attendees of the Herzliya conference:

"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Three years earlier, another Israeli Prime Minister who almost inked a peace deal with the Palestinians said much the same thing. As The Guardian reported in November 2007, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was even more pessimistic about Israel's future without a peace agreement:

Israel's prime minister issued a rare warning yesterday that his nation risked being compared to apartheid-era South Africa if it failed to agree an independent state for the Palestinians. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Ehud Olmert said Israel was "finished" if it forced the Palestinians into a struggle for equal rights.
If the two-state solution collapsed, he said, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished". Israel's supporters abroad would quickly turn against such a state, he said.

To be sure, John Kerry did himself no favors by introducing the apartheid analogy in private discussion with Japanese, European and Russian diplomats. But this wasn't a case of Kerry saying what others were only thinking. Israel's leaders long ago beat him to it.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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