John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has warned that Israel risks evolving into a de facto “apartheid” state, implying institutionalised discrimination against some of its own citizens, if it cannot find a way to finalise a two-state solution to end decades of strife with the Palestinians.
The remark, made behind closed doors at a meeting last Friday of the Trilateral Commission which brings together figures from the United States, Europe and Japan, is the first time so senior a US official has attached the term to Israel.
According to a recording of the meeting obtained by the Daily Beast website, Mr Kerry also inferred that further delay in reaching a two-state deal could provoke fresh Palestinian aggression against Israel. He suggested it might take a change of leadership on either side to allow progress
“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative,” he reportedly 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 was referring to demographic trends that suggest Israeli Arabs could one day outnumber Israeli Jews.
The latest drive for peace sponsored by the US appeared to collapse last week after the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, announced a surprise unity deal between his Fatah government and Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist group by Israel and the US.
On Sunday, Mr Abbas sought to limit the damage by describing the Holocaust as a “heinous crime”. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said his statement did not go far enough to revive the current round of talks.
In 2004 John Dugard, a professor of law and then UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories described the situation in the West Bank as "an apartheid regime ... worse than the one that existed in South Africa."