"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Daily Press Briefing
February 12, 2014
1:16 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Can we move to Palestinian-Israeli talks?
MS. HARF: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: Okay. First of all, is there anything that you could update us on with regard to the talks?
MS. HARF: Nothing new.
QUESTION: Is there any talks ongoing now?
MS. HARF: We’ve said that the talks have been ongoing. I don’t have any specifics to outline for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, there has been a great many leaks and so on about the nature of the framework agreement and so on. I want to ask you specifically on the issue of the Jewish state, which you apparently are demanding of the Palestinians. Does it say that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a home of the Jewish people? Is that what --
MS. HARF: I, again, appreciate your persistence in asking about details, but we’re just not going to talk about any of them from here.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was saying that whatever proposal Mr. Kerry is getting ready to sort of announce should stick to international norms and regulations and laws. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t, Said. I think we’re engaged in these negotiations. We hope to get a framework soon to continue the process. But beyond that, I’m just not going to litigate it in public.
QUESTION: So do you take his statement, Erekat’s statement, as an implicit suggestion that maybe Secretary Kerry is not adhering to the international perception of this long problem?
MS. HARF: That’s not how I take it, and I don’t think people here are in the business of trying to read hidden meanings into what people say publicly. What we’re focused on and our team is focused on is the private discussions we’re having with the two parties to see if we can make progress on a framework.
QUESTION: And finally, on the issue of the proposal, I know that the Secretary of State said that each side has the right or holds the right to submit reservations on each side. So what value would this framework agreement, if each sides comes up with like 20 or 15 or 30 reservations on this agreement? What kind of a Plan B you have?
MS. HARF: Well, those – I’ll take the first question, part of that, because I think it’s the relevant one. We’re working towards a framework because we need to set a process and sort of parameters around the major issues we’ll be talking about and negotiating going forward. When the parties sat down together, oh so many months ago, they didn’t agree on anything, right? They didn’t come to a conclusion on anything. They just agreed to sit down and talk. So we’re working towards a framework so we can have a path forward to discuss the variety of issues that will still need to be discussed between the two parties. And we think this is – would be an important step in moving that process forward, and hopefully we’ll get it soon.
QUESTION: To follow on that, so in other words, the framework is not binding, right? I mean --
MS. HARF: What do you mean by “binding”?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, if the framework says X, Y, and Z, and each side submits some papers of reservation saying – one side might say I object to X, the other might say I object to Y. I mean, what kind of – I guess if parts of the framework are being objected to, and yet they still agree to go forward, have they, in effect, de facto agreed to that part, the framework, even though they’ve objected to it?
MS. HARF: I think we’re thinking about it a little bit in an incorrect way, in part. If we could agree on everything then there would be no reason to continue negotiating, right?
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. HARF: So we need to put a framework in place that sets the parameters around the issues that we’re going to be talking about. Even if there are reservations, it would at least put in place a framework for how the negotiations will move forward. Again, even if there are some places where the sides won’t agree – which there will be – I mean, that’s the point of having more negotiations. So we do think it would be a breakthrough in terms of moving the process forward if we can get this framework done, and say okay, on all of these issues, here are sort of the left and right parameters – for lack of a better term – even if there are some reservations in parts of it.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me just make it more specific then. If part of the framework were to include, hypothetically, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and the Palestinian side says absolutely we will not recognize that but we will agree to move forward, have they, in effect, agreed that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state because they’ve agreed to move forward?
MS. HARF: I think I probably don’t want to get even into a specific example about what that would mean in terms of how the negotiations would move forward. What we’re focused on, quite frankly, at this point, is getting a framework in place so we can move the process forward. I don’t want to get into specifics about well, if they take a reservation here what would that mean, would it mean they are accepting X or Y. I think that’s probably just not a useful exercise to undertake when we don’t even have a framework yet.
QUESTION: But if they don’t agree on a framework agreement, how they will agree on an agreement, a full agreement?
MS. HARF: Well, we hope to get a framework in place soon. That’s our goal. That’s what we’re tracking towards right now. And then there’ll be more to negotiate. Obviously, these are complicated issues. If this were easy, it would have been done decades ago. But this is the next sort of step in the process we’re looking towards.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense that either the Israelis or the Palestinians are doing any of the tough political work domestically to prepare their people for an eventual peace deal, or is it too soon for it?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the answer is probably yes to both questions that you just asked, because I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think we have seen both sides over the – first, in restarting the talks and then in doing a – both sides in taking a number of steps, the Palestinians by not going to the UN or other international organizations, the Israelis with the prisoner releases. They have undertaken some tough domestic political steps because they are committed to moving this process forward.
I do think that there will be – need to be more work. The peace process is tough, and there will be tough decisions that need to be made on both sides. And I think both leaders have come to the table committed to making those tough decisions. At the end of the day, we’re all going to have to work to get towards some sort of comprehensive final status agreement that addresses all of the issues. And that will take a lot of work, including some of what you mentioned.
QUESTION: How likely --
MS. HARF: But we’re not there yet, obviously. There’s still time.
QUESTION: How likely is it that the Secretary will stop in the region at the end of his trip next week to meet with both sides to listen to the objections that are being raised to this apparent framework?
MS. HARF: Well, you know the Secretary is always happy to fly to the region if he thinks it will help move the process forward. Nothing to announce on travel. He’s obviously just starting a fairly lengthy Asia trip, where he’ll be discussing a variety of issues and then, of course, going on to Abu Dhabi after that. So we’ll see.
QUESTION: Let me just follow up on the issue of the framework.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: How is it envisioned, I mean, by you, by the State Department, by the Secretary of State, indeed, if you could share with us? Once the framework is announced, then would he give, like, a period of time for both sides to arrive an at an agreement – maybe two years, maybe nine months, maybe one year and so on? How is it envisioned in this building?
MS. HARF: Well, I think those are discussions we’re having right now, right? That if we can get a framework in place, then what happens and what would that look like and how would we talk about it publicly, and would there be another set period of time that we outline? And those are all, quite frankly, issues that are part of these discussions right now about the framework and how you move the process forward.
So I think the Secretary and I think both sides have said time is not on our side here --
MS. HARF: -- but we also want to take the necessary time to do this right. And I think both of those things are sort of in the Secretary’s mind, certainly, and our team’s mind as they say we need to make progress and we need to show progress fairly quickly, but again, if these were easy issues you could solve quickly, we would have already done that. So that’s, I think, infusing our thoughts on this.
QUESTION: And the Secretary would certainly like to see an agreement arrived at before the end of his tenure as the Secretary of State, correct?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the Secretary has said that time is not on our side here in terms of getting a final status agreement in place, not because it’s tied to his time here but because it’s in the best interest of the Israelis and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Thank you.