|QUESTION: To change topics to Israeli-Palestinian matters, what do you make of Prime Minister Netanyahu's apparent offer of extending the settlement freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state?
CROWLEY: Well, it will be important for -- for both parties to continue to create conditions for the direct negotiations to continue. It will be ultimately up to them to determine whether they see, you know, value in -- in continuing this process.
We certainly continue to encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue in direct negotiations.
CROWLEY: And we continue to emphasize to them there is no way -- no other way to resolve the core issues, except through this -- these direct negotiations leading to what we hope to be an agreement.
It's not for us to -- you know, to endorse, you know, this idea or this idea.
We have offered to both sides our thinking on -- on things of importance to the Israelis, to the Palestinians. We would hope, you know, through, you know, this kind of dynamic, where -- where know you have, you know, the leaders saying, you know, "This is what I'm going to contribute to the process, this is what I need to get out of the process, you know, to be able to convince my respective, you know, constituencies that there is value in -- in continuing."
So I think we endorse, you know, what the leaders are doing in terms of contributing ideas that we hope will help continue the process. But it's not for us to say, "This is a pretty good deal; you ought to take it."
You know, that ultimately will be up to, you know, the prime minister and President Abbas to continue this kind of dialogue and see if, you know, through these kinds of -- of statements and other ongoing discussions, if -- if both sides, you know, will make the commitment that we hope they will make to continue in the process.
QUESTION: From the Palestinians' point of view, I think they feel that what they're being asked to do is to, if not give away the store, to make a very major concession. You know, the corollary to acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state is effectively abandoning the so-called right of returns for Palestinians to whatever become the ultimate borders of the Israeli state. And that's a major what used to be called final status question.
Is it constructive to float offers or ideas like that just to get back into the talks?
CROWLEY: Well, we think it's constructive for the parties to put forward and to continue to put forward their ideas on -- on -- on -- that demonstrate their commitment to and the importance of and the value of, you know, these negotiations. And this has to be something that's done by both sides.
They're in the direct negotiations now. We want to see those direct negotiations continue. There is a pause in the action as we kind of work through, you know, the issue of the moratorium and settlements. But, you know, if -- if -- Prime Minister Netanyahu has offered his thoughts on both what he's willing to contribute to the process, what he thinks he needs for his people out of the process, we would hope that the Palestinians would do the same thing and -- and, you know, through this ongoing dialogue will gain the commitment on both sides to -- to continue and to resume in this negotiations.
CROWLEY: We will continue our -- our discussions with both parties. We hope that a formula can be arrived at, conditions can be established that allow the prime minister and the president, on behalf of their respective people, you know, to make the political commitment to stay in this direct negotiation.
So this is -- this is the kind of process that we think is needed at this time. But ultimately it will be up to, you know, the prime minister and the president to decide if -- if they're -- they're seeing enough, they're getting enough, and they're offering enough, you know, to sustain this process.
QUESTION: So the ball's in the Palestinians' court now? You want to see them make a counteroffer or put some ideas out there?
CROWLEY: Well, it -- it's -- it's the responsibility of both the parties. This ultimately is -- has -- you know, you work from back to front. This has to be an agreement that they make. It's not something that we're going to impose on -- on either one of them.
As we -- as we, you know, get down the road in this process, as we've said all along, you know, we're willing to offer, you know, specific proposals that -- that might get beyond the inevitable challenges that we know we will face.
We've offered our ideas to both sides, you know, to try to navigate through this particular issue that we currently confront over the settlement moratorium. But these -- these are judgments that the leaders have to make. We want to see both of them stake the process. We want to see both of them offer their thinking about what -- what needs to be, you know, advanced and agreed to that allows both sides to stay in these negotiations.
That was -- that's what we want to see them do, but ultimately it will be up to both to say, you know, these -- that this -- this is what we need to be able to make the -- the difficult political decision that we know both of them face whether or not to stay directly engaged in negotiations.
QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state? And will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?
CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions, you know, with the parties. I -- I would expect, you know, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week, that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I'm not announcing anything, but I -- it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, you know, see where they are.
You know, we will offer our ideas on -- on -- you know, based on our conversations, what our assessment is that -- of what each side needs to be able to make the political commitment to remain in these direct negotiations.
QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
CROWLEY: We -- you know, we recognize the aspiration of the -- of the, you know, the people of Israel. It's a democracy. In that democracy there's a guarantee of -- of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens.
But as the secretary has said, you know, we -- we understand that -- the special character of the state of Israel.
QUESTION: P.J., do you want to answer his question?
QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel (ph)?.
QUESTION: Michel's (ph) question was a yes-or-no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or a no.
CROWLEY: We recognize that -- that Israel, you know, is a -- as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.
QUESTION: OK, my question is it's been less than two months since this whole process started and already you're seriously hung up on the settlement issue.
And I would just like to know what you guys are doing to break the deadlock, but more importantly, how you're going to prevent this from happening over and over again.
CROWLEY: That's a very good question.
We -- that's -- that's what we are involved in right now. We are -- we are working with the parties. We're trying to find a formula that allows the direct negotiations to continue.
And then, you know, through this negotiation, you know, one of the issues that we recognize is a core issue is the issue of borders. And we want to be able to see and use the time that is available to us. If we can make progress on the issue of borders, then, largely speaking, the issue of settlements, you know, is then resolved and both sides will understand, you know, how to manage this process going forward.
We -- we are offering our thoughts, you know, to be able to move the process toward a final agreement, you know, within the next 11 months. It is not our intention to -- to confront this issue every -- you know, every few weeks.
We want to -- that's why it's important for the parties, you know, to -- to make the political commitment to stay in the negotiations for the long haul, so we can get to -- into greater detail on the core status issues.
QUESTION: So do you think it's really helpful for Prime Minister Netanyahu to have made this demand, a final-status core-issue demand right up front, early on in the process, in exchange for just two months?
You said that you were looking for both parties to make contributions that indicated they wanted to continue. A lot of people would not say that Mr. Netanyahu's request fits that description.
CROWLEY: Again, we -- we want to see the direct negotiations continue with enough room for us to -- to move from where we are toward a successful negotiation that resolves the core issues.
As we've said since the outset in late August, we believe that this can be accomplished, you know, within a year's time. But we have to see -- we have to get the commitment from both sides to stay into -- in the direct negotiations. That's what we're trying to do now.
And in trying to resolve this immediate issue, we're trying to resolve it and create, you know, sufficient time and space so that we do not have to confront this whether it's two months from now, three months from now or six months from now.
We want to see a clear path so that the parties can continue the process.
I mean, in what we've done so far, there have been some discussion of the core issues. We believe, based on the discussions that have been done so far, that there actually is the opportunity to resolve this conflict once and for all.
CROWLEY: That's what we believe, and that is the essence of our commitment to this process.
So we don't just want to push the can down the road two months. We want to create a clean path that allows the parties to begin the arduous process of addressing the core issues one by one with the intention of reaching a successful negotiation within a year's time.
QUESTION: Did you say that you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
CROWLEY: I'm not making any news here. You know, the president, the secretary and others have said this before.
QUESTION: Because Abbas said they recognize the state of Israel. Is the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
CROWLEY: Look, I will -- I will be happy to go back over and offer some -- I'm trying -- I'm not making any news here.
We have, you know, recognized the -- the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well.
But, you know, this is the aspiration of the -- you know, what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is in essence, you know, the -- the -- a core demand of the Israeli government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. And that is what they want to see through this negotiation.
We understand, you know, this aspiration. And the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that, you know, just as they aspire to a state, you know, for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own now.
So the prime minister has put forward his ideas on what he believes his people need to hear so that they can -- they can make the commitment that we're seeking to stay in this process and to reach a successful conclusion.
This is not -- this is not a one-way street; it is a two-way street. You know, the prime minister is offering something and asking for something. It is perfectly within the rights of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas to say, you know, "There's something I need and there's something I'm willing to give."
This is -- this is the essence of the negotiation that is ongoing and the essence of the negotiation that we want to see continue.
QUESTION: P.J., I'm a little -- I want to get something straight.
I understand what you say and what other Americans have said for years, decades even, about the leaders in the region have to decide that we can't do it for them. But you also said something 10 minutes ago, 15 minutes ago about, "It is not for us to say this is a pretty good deal, you ought to take it."
And I'm wondering if there's really a conflict there and if you are really suggesting to us that an American negotiator, whether it's Senator Mitchell, Secretary Clinton or the president, would not go to one of the two leaders at some point and say, "This is a pretty good deal; you ought to take it."
And I'm not referring to this case.
CROWLEY: I mean, you know, there's a difference between, you know, the advice that we might offer, you know, privately, and we have shared our ideas with the -- with both parties.
CROWLEY: But ultimately, they have to make the commitment.
And, you know, as I said, you know, George Mitchell I expect in -- in the coming days, you know, will be, you know, conferring again with the leaders and to determine, you know, where we are and -- and in essence, you know, sort through whether we believe that the conditions are -- are right for direct negotiations to continue.
That's what we're trying to do, you know, from -- from this point forward: you know, help the parties create conditions for these direct negotiations to advance. That's what we've been doing, you know, for the -- for the past few weeks, and we hope that both parties, you know, can and will make the political commitment to continue.
QUESTION: P.J., what do you think about the Prime Minister Netanyahu's proposal timing? What about the timing?
CROWLEY: Well, you had -- you know, you had what we thought was a -- an affirmation by the Arab League, you know, last week, where everyone sees, you know, the value of the direct negotiations. And -- and -- and at its essence, the Arab League said, "We're willing to give more time, you know, for the United States to work with the parties and see if we can't create a formula and create conditions for the negotiations to continue."
So, you know, in that context, the prime minister is -- offered some thoughts before the Knesset yesterday as to what his view is of -- of the balance needed on both sides for the negotiation to continue.
Now, on the one hand, there's some voices within the Palestinian Authority that have said that's -- that's not -- that's not what they consider the right answer. That's fine, you know.
So, you know, then from a Palestinian standpoint, you know, what are their ideas, you know, for -- for the negotiations to continue?
This -- this -- you know -- so, in a sense, we see -- we see both sides seem to want the process to continue. Now it is up for both sides to share ideas, you know, with each other and with the United States on what is needed -- what are the right conditions for this negotiation to go forward. That is -- you know -- so this exactly what we -- we think is necessary to get both sides to make that public and political commitment to stay engaged.
QUESTION: Apart from Netanyahu's proposal to break the deadlock, is there a separate U.S. proposal on the table right now? Or is that the only (inaudible)?
CROWLEY: We -- we have shared our ideas with the parties. And beyond that, I'll leave our advice to the parties (inaudible).