Israel could become an apartheid state if peace negotiations fail, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has warned.
Mr Kerry said the country could be faced with a large population of second-class citizens if it did not succeed in negotiating a two-state solution – with Israel alongside an independent Palestine - to end the Middle-East conflict.
According to the Daily Beast website, he made the remark at a closed-door meeting of the trilateral commission of international leaders.
He said: "A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because 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."
His comments came following the near-breakdown last week of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
It is believed to be the first time an US official has used the term apartheid to describe Israel.
The word is more usually used by anti-Israel critics to attack the country’s treatment of the Palestinians.