Secretary of State John Kerry was forced into damage control mode after off-the-cuff comments warning Israeli leaders that the country risks becoming an “apartheid state” if it continues to fail to address the Palestinian question. The evocation of the phrase “apartheid”—typically used to describe the system of state-enforced racial segregation legally mandated in South Africa until 1994—touched off a firestorm. Critics of Israeli policy, including former President Jimmy Carter, have regularly described Israel as an “apartheid state.” But both the US and the Israeli governments have objected to the term’s use in this context.
Setting aside the question of whether or not the term “apartheid” is appropriate in this context, it seems clear that Kerry’s remarks highlight ongoing challenges in the Obama White House in normalizing relations with Israel. The breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process last week was just the latest example of the slow rate of progress in addressing the question, and highlight in particular the inability of US policymakers to influence both Israeli and Palestinian decision makers as the peace process moves (or does not move) forward.
What do you think? Will Kerry’s comments undermine the Obama Administration’s efforts to move forward with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?