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Kerry backs off Israel ‘apartheid’ comment

John Kerry lashed out against ‘‘partisan political’’ attacks against him.

AP/File

John Kerry lashed out against ‘‘partisan political’’ attacks against him.

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that he had chosen the wrong word in describing Israel’s potential future after coming under withering criticism for saying the Jewish state could become an
‘‘apartheid state’’ if it doesn’t reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

In a statement released by the State Department, Kerry lashed out against ‘‘partisan political’’ attacks against him, but acknowledged his comments last week could have been misinterpreted.

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While he pointedly did not apologize for the remarks, he stressed he was, and is, a strong supporter of Israel, which he called a ‘‘vibrant democracy.’’ He said his remarks were only an expression of his firm belief that a two-state resolution is the only viable way to end the long-running conflict. And, he stressed, he does not believe Israel is, or is definitely on track to become, an ‘‘apartheid state.’’

On Sunday, The Daily Beast reported that Kerry had told a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington on Friday that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state with two classes of citizens if negotiations to forge a peace deal fail and a two-state solution is not reached.

The report of Kerry’s comment to the commission was immediately assailed by many in the pro-Israel community in the United States.

House GOP leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said Kerry should apologize, while the American Israel Public Affairs Committee described his use of the term as ‘‘offensive.’’

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