Secretary of State
Supporters of Israel in
Some Palestinian advocates, meanwhile, complained that Kerry's comment ignored that Palestinians already have second-class status in the country.
Kerry's comments came at a closed meeting of the Trilateral Commission, a private group seeking solutions to global problems. It was first reported Sunday by the Daily Beast, which said it had obtained a recording of the comment.
Jen Psaki, a
The secretary "does not believe and did not state publicly or privately that Israel is an apartheid state, and there's an important difference there," she said. "Israel is obviously a vibrant democracy with equal rights for all its citizens."
House Majority Leader
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential lobby group, said the comments were "deeply troubling. Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate."
[Updated at 3:10 p.m. PDT on April 28: Sen.
A pro-Palestinian group, the Institute for Middle East Understanding, took exception to Kerry's comment, issuing a fact sheet to argue that Israel already has a two-tier legal system in the West Bank and discriminatory practices against Palestinians living in Israel.
Over the years some Israelis -- including Israel’s first prime minister, the late