WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans in Congress and pro-Israel groups criticized Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday for reportedly saying Israel could become an apartheid state if it doesn’t reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The Daily Beast said Kerry was speaking privately to European, Russian and Japanese officials when he made the comment and said it had a recording. It’s a warning Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Barak previously has made.

House GOP leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Kerry should apologize, while the American Israel Public Affairs Committee described his use of the term as offensive. Another pro-Israel lobby said Kerry should resign, a call echoed by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in a speech on the Senate floor.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry sees Israel as a vibrant democracy, not an apartheid state.

Kerry’s effort to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace framework has crumbled recently amid Israeli settlement construction and reconciliation between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ government and the Islamic militant group Hamas.


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