John Kerry had to backpedal after he suggested that Israel was on the path to becoming an apartheid state, and that's a sad commentary about the level of candor we have on the topic of our Mideast ally, writes Paul Waldman at the Washington Post. Kerry didn't say Israel was an apartheid state, he said it could become one—and that happens to be true, writes Waldman. Given current birth rates, the number of Palestinians will eventually exceed the number of Israelis, meaning "you have a minority government ruling over a majority population without citizenship rights."
Others have made this point before, but Kerry took immediate flak from pro-Israel groups and lawmakers, who seem more concerned with making sure "all public officials are being sufficiently 'pro-Israel' in their every utterance" than with making actual progress in negotiations, writes Waldman. It's tantamount to censorship. At Bloomberg, Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he has used the word "apartheid" himself in writing about Israel's potential future—laying the blame on the settlement movement—though he spells out the reasons why he no longer uses the volatile term. For starters, "deployment of the word doesn't start conversations, it ends them," he writes. Still, he's not going to criticize Kerry. "Israeli leaders must open their minds to the possibility that he has their long-term interests at heart." Click for Goldberg's full column. Or for Waldman's full column. (Read more John Kerry stories.)