The United States rejected as "absurd" attempts to label Israel as an apartheid state, pledging its support for the Jewish right to self-determination.
But it stopped short of calling the accusation of apartheid antisemitic.
"We reject the view that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.
"The department’s own reports have never used such terminology," Price said when quizzed about a major report by Amnesty International which appeared to criminalized Jewish self-determination, stating that Israel had been guilty of apartheid since its inception in 1948.
"Come on, this is absurd," US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted about the report. "That is not language that we have used and will not use."
"We think that it is important as the world’s only Jewish state that the Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination," Price said in Washington, "and we must ensure there isn’t a double standard being applied."
But he ducked a question by a reporter who asked, "Do you think it comes from a place of antisemitism to make those accusations?"
Price responded: "We have had an opportunity to speak about this with our Israeli counterparts."
Nor did he have a response for Associated Press reporter Mat Lee who accused the US of holding a double standard regarding human rights violations leveled by NGOs against Israel.
The US has "cited Amnesty International on Ethiopia, on Cuba, on China and Xinjiang, on Iran, on Burma, on Syria," Lee said.
"Why is it that all criticism of Israel from these groups is almost always rejected by the US, and yet is accepted, welcomed and endorsed... when the criticism is of other countries, notably countries with which you have significant policy differences?" Lee asked.
Price said that the US has been critical of Israel, including in its own reports.
"We support the efforts of the Israeli government, [and] of the Palestinian Authority, alongside human rights activists to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses," Price said.
"We continue to emphasize to Israel and to the Palestinian Authority the need to refrain, as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, from unilateral actions that exacerbate tensions," he said. "This includes the annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement of violence, and the providing of compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.
"We take all allegations of human rights abuses seriously – that is true around the world – including allegations of arbitrary detention, and we continue around the world to urge respect for human rights."