F.W. de Klerk, who served as the last President of apartheid-era South Africa, said on Wednesday that it was unfair to say that Israel is an apartheid state.
De Klerk, who is visiting Israel where he received an honorary doctorate from Haifa University, gave an interview to Channel 2 News, in which he was asked about comments recently attributed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, that Israel would become "an apartheid state" if talks failed.
"There are many definitions of apartheid. I do not know what Mr. Kerry meant, but one should be careful about making comparisons,” said de Klerk, adding, “From what I know of Israel, I do not think it's a fair comparison.”
He continued, "I would not call Israel an apartheid state. You have closed borders, but even the United States has closed borders and Mexicans cannot enter freely. There are Palestinians here with full rights and representation in the Knesset, there are no discriminatory laws against them. It's not fair to call Israel an apartheid state. If Kerry said it, I think he made a mistake.”
At the same time, de Klerk said that without the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel may have to contend with the consequences of one state for both peoples.
"The test will be (does) everybody living then in such a unitary state, will everybody have full political rights?" he told Channel 2. "Will everybody enjoy their full human rights? If they will, it's not an apartheid state."
"There will come in Israel a turning point where if the main obstacles at the moment which exist to a successful two-state solution are not removed, the two-state solution will become impossible," said de Klerk.
Palestinian Arabs have long used the claim that Israel is carrying a policy of “apartheid” against them, ignoring the fact that Arabs in Israel enjoy full rights just as anyone else.
These sentiments, however, have also been prevalent in post-apartheid South Africa. Last June, the former South African ambassador to Israel rejected a symbolic gift from the Israeli government, planting trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.
He explained that Israeli policies which, he claims, discriminate against Arabs appeared to be reminiscent of his experiences under South Africa's apartheid system.
Several months earlier, South Africa imposed new rules requiring that goods imported from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem display special labels.
The new rules stipulate that goods will no longer carry "Made in Israel" labels but instead will have to be specific about the exact origin of the goods.
South Africa's Foreign Minister has in the past slammed Israel's plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, saying she was “losing sleep” over the size of “Palestine”.