National Security

John Kerry's Apartheid State Department

Comments about Israel and apartheid anger our ally and highlight Kerry's ineptitude.

May 1, 2014
Shouldn't have said that.

When John Kerry unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004, his waffling positions became so legendary that former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino trained her dog to retrieve a flip-flop at the mention of Kerry’s name. Well, it seems neither the passage of time nor the ascension to U.S. secretary of state has lessened Kerry’s ability to say one thing and then say another. Unfortunately, the repercussions now are much greater than they were on the campaign trail.

The most recent case in point is Kerry’s inflammatory and now infamous remark about America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel. Speaking about the now-failed “peace” talks – which were supposed to be a crowning jewel of Kerry’s cabinet tenure but instead ended last night at midnight in another stalemate – 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.” He added, “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.”

The remark, made in a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission of high-level leaders from around the world, has rightly outraged Jewish leaders, as the term “apartheid” most commonly brings to mind the racial segregation that defined South Africa for nearly half of the 20th century. It was so bad that even Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) noted that “any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous.”

Seeking to backtrack in classic “I voted for it before I voted against it” fashion, Kerry quickly issued a non-apology clarification: “I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe,” Kerry said in the statement, adding, “I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.”

Droning on per his usual, Kerry 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.”

Now, some might paint Kerry’s comments as a thoughtless slip, but this is an unconvincing argument. As The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto writes of the closed-door meeting, “The purpose of granting such an assurance of confidentiality is to encourage candor. And it is hard to believe that Kerry would be especially careless in his choice of words before such an eminent audience.” Much more likely is that the promise of confidentiality freed Kerry to say what he truly thinks. Indeed, swooping to Kerry’s defense yesterday afternoon was White House Press Secretary James Carney, who said that while the word “apartheid” was the wrong choice, the White House agrees with the message Kerry was expressing. In other words, “We mean apartheid but we’re not saying apartheid.” The White House teleprompter apparently was not available to provide an emergency replacement word.

The tragedy in all of this is not Kerry’s backpedaling or Carney’s lexical jig. Rather, it’s the open insult of one of America’s greatest allies – an ally that, day by day, this administration increasingly treats like an enemy.

Click here to show comments

It's Right. It's Free.