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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: United States of America
14 August 2013

U.S. Department of State

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC
August 14, 2013


QUESTION: I wonder if you have anything to share with us about the status of the talks in Jerusalem.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, they are underway --

QUESTION: I understand, (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: -- as you may be aware.

QUESTION: I am fully aware.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) So they are taking place, of course, today in Jerusalem. I know you all are aware of this but let me just reiterate who will be representing all sides. The Israelis will be representative – represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molho, and the Palestinians will be represented by Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh. I’m sure I butchered that last name

QUESTION: No, you got it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Excellent.

MS. PSAKI: The aim, of course, as we have said previously about these talks, is to have the parties engage in sustained and continuous negotiations with all final status issues on the table. And I believe as my colleague, Marie, has said before, we aren’t planning to read out the substance of these meetings or every step that takes place as this process continues.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked Marie if she was expecting for the Minister of Housing to announce the new settlement, and in fact, he did today. So what is your reaction to that – right before the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that you discussed this at length --

QUESTION: At length, yes, right.

MS. PSAKI: -- over the last two days. Our position has not changed. We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. These announcements come at a particularly sensitive time with the negotiations continuing in the region. As you know, the Secretary spoke with – and I believe this was right after the briefing yesterday – but he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. He also spoke with President Abbas. Certainly, this issue was a part of those conversations, and he stressed to both parties the importance of taking steps to create a positive atmosphere.

But of course, the talks are continuing today. This is even more reason for why these talks should continue and why we are encouraging them to continue. And that’s where we stand.

QUESTION: Back in 1978, President Carter said that, quote, “We don’t see these settlements as being legal.” Why can’t you say that they aren’t legal?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into legal interpretations from the podium, but I think I just stated our position.

QUESTION: Just logistically, are they going to decide at this meeting when to have the Jericho meeting? Or has that already been decided?

MS. PSAKI: That will be part of the discussion, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why did it start so late?

MS. PSAKI: In the day?

QUESTION: 9:00 p.m.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any particular readout on the timing.

QUESTION: You don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: It may have been aligning all of the schedules of all the parties.

QUESTION: All right. Now, on – I had a couple questions that Marie said she would take yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The first of them had to deal with the Palestinian prisoners who were released yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: At that point, they hadn’t been released. I was expecting – I waited up all night long for the TQ to my questions, and I never got them.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I hate to hear that.

QUESTION: Yeah. So one, does the U.S. take a position on what these prisoners who were released were or are – well, what were they when they were in prison? Were they terrorists, as Israel says, or were they freedom fighters/political prisoners, as the Palestinians say? Or does it not really matter to you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t put either of those labels – the way that this group is – has been categorized or the way we would is that these prisoners – these were prisoners who have been in detention since pre-Oslo. We don’t feel we need to give any further definition or name. And we, of course, have seen what has come out from both sides.

QUESTION: Do you object to the Palestinians in particular talking about these people as freedom fighters, as heroes for the Palestinian cause, when they were tried – accused, tried, and convicted of some pretty heinous crimes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we – I just outlined for you how we define them.

QUESTION: No, no. I --

MS. PSAKI: Of course, people are going to --

QUESTION: -- it’s – I understand that you don’t care to or want to or see the need to put a definition on them.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I’m wondering if it’s problematic to you that the Palestinians put labels on them, call them heroes and freedom fighters, and generally talk about them with great pride, when they were accused, tried, and convicted of very heinous crimes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, making an evaluation of that and the names the Palestinians are using is not our focus here.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t object to the Palestinians calling them whatever they want to.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not object or condone. It’s not – I just told you --

QUESTION: No, right. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: -- how we define them. And beyond that --

QUESTION: No, it doesn’t – it’s not an issue for you, is what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Beyond that, I don't have any more on that particular --

QUESTION: All right. Now in terms of the line – the standard line, we don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Secretary seemed to use a variation of that the other day when he was in South America. I believe you were there for it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He said the United States doesn’t see all of the settlement activity as legitimate. Is it correct that – is that correct, that all settlement activity is illegitimate? And I don't want to get into this illegitimate or illegal, because as far as I’m concerned it’s a distinction without a difference. Does the United States believe that all Israeli settlement activity along – and we can include in that East Jerusalem construction – is all of it illegitimate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on Jerusalem has been clear and has been consistent for some time, which is that we believe it is a final status issue in terms of the discussion of that – of Jerusalem, right?


MS. PSAKI: That is part of the discussion. We have, of course, expressed concerns about construction in East Jerusalem. That hasn’t changed. Our position on settlements we have stated a number of times, and I just stated, and that has not changed either.

QUESTION: Okay. So you do not regard the construction in East Jerusalem as illegitimate. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just stated what we – what our longstanding position has been on construction.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: But it’s not – hold on, Said. But it’s not that it’s illegitimate?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything more than what I just stated.

QUESTION: Because it is a final status issue?

MS. PSAKI: It is a final status issue that we discussed and worked through.

QUESTION: So one of the questions – okay. So one of the questions that I had that Marie said she would take yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- was about the 900 homes that were announced for construction in East Jerusalem. Is it fair to say you do not regard those as illegitimate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – in terms of those specific – that specific announcement --


MS. PSAKI: -- you know we oppose any unilateral action. Certainly we would include this, that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. That’s where that building is taking place. That’s our view on it.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re opposed to it, but you don’t say that it’s illegitimate?

MS. PSAKI: I think you know our position.

QUESTION: Okay. So in terms of illegitimacy then, this legitimacy issue, are existing settlements illegitimate in the eyes of the Administration in the West Bank? Settlements in the West Bank that currently exist now, are they illegitimate, meaning that they should not be part of Israel once there is a peace agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, the question of borders will be worked through and is part of the discussion that will take place and will be ongoing in the weeks and months ahead.

QUESTION: So are existing settlements illegitimate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have concerns about ongoing continued settlement activity.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you understand that there’s a serious problem here? Because if you talk about – if all you’re prepared to say is that you don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity, you are only calling illegitimate settlements that have not been announced, settlements that are, say, a twinkle in the Housing Minister or whoever’s eye. Once they are actually announced or built, you stop calling them illegitimate, and they – and you start saying that that’s a – that’s something to be decided between the parties. Okay?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this has been our position for a number of years.

QUESTION: That’s – well, right. But --

MS. PSAKI: So --

QUESTION: And I’m surprised that no one, and especially me, has picked up on this before, because you have essentially – you don’t oppose settlements at all, because once they’re built or once they’re announced, once plans for them – plans to build them are announced, you’re not opposed to them anymore, because it’s something for the parties to decide whether they’re legitimate or not.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly it will be – a big part of the discussion will be that process moving forward.

QUESTION: Right. Do you understand the problem? Do you understand the --

MS. PSAKI: I understand what you’re conveying, Matt. I’m happy to talk back with our team and see if there’s any more clarification we can provide.

QUESTION: Okay. So tell me, am I wrong in thinking that the United States has no position at all except that it is to be decided by the parties on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of settlements that exist in the West Bank today?

MS. PSAKI: I believe you are wrong, Matt. We’ll get you some more clarification.

QUESTION: You believe I’m wrong? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll get you some more clarification.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in fact, your longstanding position, going back all the way to 1967, and through George Herbert Walker Bush when he was representative at the United Nations, and on to Andrew Young, and on and on and on, that the settlement, that Jerusalem – East Jerusalem, the West Bank, all territory occupied is contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and any alteration stands contrary to that, that you will not support. That is your position, not to reconcile yourself to the facts on the ground, as has been suggested.

MS. PSAKI: Duly noted.

QUESTION: Same topic?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Given the fact that those new settlements were announced just in the last, what, 24 hours or so --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the peace talks went forward, what is it that you pledged, promised to the Palestinians to keep them from walking out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it was a decision made by both sides to return to the negotiating table. Obviously we’re playing a facilitating role, but there was a belief by both sides that this was an important time to move forward and to work through to have these direct negotiations. Beyond that, I’m not going to peel the curtain back on any specific discussions.

QUESTION: And forgive me if I missed it --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but what exactly is the role of Ambassador Indyk and Mr. Lowenstein --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in the current round of talks?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, they have been on the ground since this weekend. They’ve been engaged in a range of meetings with both parties. The meeting today is between both parties, and Ambassador Indyk is certainly available as a facilitator, but I think some of that will be determined as the meeting commences and as the days unfold. But they’re playing a facilitator role, so there are some meetings that they will be in, they will be meeting with both parties, but there will be meetings like today where it’s between the two parties.


DPB # 138


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