US Secretary of State John Kerry dispelled the idea that he in any way considers Israel to be an apartheid state and expressed regret for use of the term during a recent closed meeting.

Kerry had told a closed forum of international leaders at the Trilateral Commission forum on Friday that if peace between Israel and the Palestinians does not materialise, Israel is in danger of becoming an “apartheid state.” A leaked recording published by the Daily Beastwebsite quoted Kerry warning that, “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.”

Serving senior US leaders have invariably refused to use such language regarding Israel, with President Obama calling it “historically inaccurate” in 2008. A Times editorial this morning criticised Kerry’s choice of language, saying it was “guaranteed to cause offence to Israel.” Although there was no official Israeli comment, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki looked to diffuse the situation yesterday, explaining that, “Secretary Kerry, like Justice Minister Livni and previous Israeli Prime Ministers Olmert and Barak, was reiterating why there’s no such thing as a one-state solution if you believe, as he does, in the principle of a Jewish state.”

Late last night Kerry was even more vehement in rejecting any suggestion comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa, issuing a rare personal statement. In it he said, “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.” He explained, “If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way” 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.” Kerry added, “I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone.”