"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Daily Press Briefing
January 6, 2014
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Palestinian-Israeli issue?
MS. HARF: Yes, we can.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you give us an update as to what’s going on?
MS. HARF: I can. Let me pull that up. As you know, the Secretary just left. And as you heard him say, we made progress with both the Israelis and the Palestinians on a framework that would be the basis for negotiations moving forward. We all know these are tough issues with decades of history and mistrust behind them. And he said he – we always expected it would take time.
I think what’s significant about this period is that the parties are talking about all these core issues, whether it’s borders, security, other issues. And the Secretary also said that he had very positive, very serious, and very intensive – I think those were his words – conversations with both sides. Ambassador Indyk is staying on the ground, will continue working with both sides to continue to narrow the differences. We do believe that we’ve made progress, and on this trip indeed did narrow the gaps. But we still have some more to go.
QUESTION: Has he been able to broker a meeting between the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you on that. I know people talk about that, but nothing on that for you.
QUESTION: What is the --
QUESTION: Are you aware that --
MS. HARF: Wait, we’ll go around.
QUESTION: -- the Secretary may have – that the Israelis announced the destruction of certain buildings in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank? Do you know if this was part of the topic of discussion?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those specifics. Again, we don’t get into the specifics that are discussed between any of the parties.
QUESTION: And finally, are you aware of conflicting statements by the Palestinians, specifically the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat? I mean, he says something and done exactly the opposite.
MS. HARF: Is there a question?
QUESTION: On the progress. Yes, there is a question. I mean, is there something – is there --
MS. HARF: Have I seen them? What do I make of that?
QUESTION: I’m saying, is there – are there certain statement to be made public and certain statement that are made for the benefit of the Palestinian public, in this case?
MS. HARF: Well, as I’ve said, Said – and it’s a good question – what I’ve said is that what we’re focused on is the negotiations and what’s said in the room, what’s discussed in the room, and ultimately, what we agree to in the room. I’m not going to stand up here and do analysis on public comments by anybody involved here, other than to say we’re focused on what’s said at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: On the progress, can you just share with us the points or the categories where the progress was made? I know it’s a general thing to say we made some progress, but are we talking about certain issues? Because again, we’re hearing conflicting reports coming from the region that actually there was no agreement on any of the issues that have been --
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say there was agreement. I said we narrowed the gaps, but there are still some more gaps that remain, and we’re not going to go into details about where those gaps do remain because we think it would not be helpful to the process.
QUESTION: Is it still the Administration position that if a framework can be reached before the target, the end of April, that there could be some kind of an extension to get an actual treaty, final status agreement?
MS. HARF: Well, I know that’s certainly been an option that folks have discussed a little bit. What we’re focused on --
QUESTION: That still is an option, though, correct?
MS. HARF: I mean, I think I would say, yes, it’s still an option. But what we’re focused on right now is getting the framework done --
MS. HARF: -- which hopefully we’ll get done well before the end of April --
MS. HARF: -- and then we’ll all figure out how long it will take to get the --
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, the reason that I’m asking is because of some – because I think as part of some of the comments that Erekat made that Said was talking about in this interview that was published on Friday in which he said that the agreement that the Palestinians signed up for says nothing about going beyond the target – the nine-month target date, and there won’t be – not even one minute – and there won’t be anything after that. So that would seem to be at least problematic.
MS. HARF: But I think at times he actually says he was open to an extension, as has President Abbas, I think.
QUESTION: I know. All right. Another thing he said in those comments was that he fears for President Abbas’s life because the Israelis poisoned/killed Arafat, which – can I just get – what does the U.S. make of comments like that?
MS. HARF: Well, you probably won’t like this answer, but what I am not going to do is stand up here and do analysis on every public comment that someone makes.
QUESTION: Well, is it the U.S. --
MS. HARF: I’m just not.
QUESTION: What’s the U.S. understanding? Did the Israelis poison Arafat?
MS. HARF: That’s certainly not my understanding. I think we’ve addressed this many times in the past.
QUESTION: Okay. So when one – so when one side – and this gets back to my questions about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments standing next to Secretary Kerry last week, which you didn’t want to comment on. But when one side or when a senior official from one side gets up and says something that you believe is outrageously false, not correct, don’t you have – don’t you think that you have an obligation to come out and say, “Look, that’s wrong and that’s not helping the situation”?
MS. HARF: And as I’ve said, I do think we do, but we make those discussions private --
QUESTION: So what are --
MS. HARF: -- for a very good reason, that we’re not going to --
MS. HARF: -- get in a tit-for-tat publicly. If we have issues with things either side says or either side does, we have those discussions privately and keep them as a part of these private discussions because we think that’s the best way to make progress here.
QUESTION: You don’t – so you think that – so when the --
MS. HARF: So I’m not saying we don’t register complaints.
QUESTION: But the --
MS. HARF: I’m just saying we don’t always do it publicly.
QUESTION: Well, so what is the Arab-speaking public supposed to think, then, about the U.S. position about this if all you’re willing to do is to tell Erekat, “Don’t say things like this,” to say that to him privately? I don’t get it.
It would seem to me if that you give an interview to a major Arabic-language newspaper which is going to be read online and in print all over the region in which he asserts – the chief Palestinian negotiator asserts that Israel killed Arafat, and you guys don’t come out and publicly say, one, we don’t believe or we think or we know that that’s factually inaccurate; and two, this is not the kind of thing that’s going to get progress anywhere; or three, it’s certainly not the kind of thing that prepares or helps prepare the Palestinian people for what you hope will be an eventual peace deal. It gets back to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about incitement when he was standing next to Kerry. Either you believe that the prime minister is right and that this Palestinian official is wrong, or you don’t.
QUESTION: And what is the trouble with just --
QUESTION: And I think you have to say – you have to – but – and staying silent on it, I don’t see how – can you explain to me how it is that you think that helps?
MS. HARF: Well, publicly silent is different than privately silent. And again, nobody’s privately silent. If you’ve ever met the Secretary or Ambassador Indyk, nobody’s privately silent. In terms of the good – and then I will get back to – I think there was a question somewhere in there – that in terms of good faith, what we’re – how we judge that is that the parties remain at the table negotiating seriously and – no, but they do – seriously, substantively, and we’re making progress towards getting a framework. Going out and saying something in an interview is one thing, but what we’re focused on is, at the table, making progress on getting a framework in place, and then moving forward with the negotiations.
QUESTION: But how can you judge the sincerity of their negotiations if the minute the negotiations are done they leave the room and they’re trashing the other party publicly?
MS. HARF: Again, these are complicated issues. They’re sensitive issues. I’m not going to do an analysis of what everyone says publicly. We’re focused on what the parties do at the table.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not saying analysis. I’m – okay, so don’t analyze everyone, but let’s talk about a pattern on each side of sitting next to Secretary Kerry and telling him very nice things and being – making progress on these – on all these issues; and then the minute they leave the room, they completely trash both the process and the other party.
MS. HARF: Well, there’s a long history of mistrust on both sides.
QUESTION: So which is the real Israeli and which is the real Palestinian? The one that’s sitting --
MS. HARF: I think that’s a much bigger question, Elise, than we can address at this podium. Honestly, I do. What we can judge people on is their actions, what they do at the negotiating table --
QUESTION: Well, their actions – going out speaking very negatively against the other party is an action.
MS. HARF: I’m not saying we always welcome every time people go out and speak about this. That’s why we’ve purposefully made it quiet. And to be fair, I haven’t seen Mr. – Dr. Erekat – excuse me – his specific comments. I haven’t seen them. I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there’s a response.
What I am saying in general is that there’s a lot of churn out there, there’s a lot of people talking, and there – we always knew that would be the case. There always is. That’s why we have to focus on what we do at the table.
QUESTION: But if you’re an honest broker and you still claim to be an honest broker – “claim” is maybe the wrong word – you believe that you still are an honest broker in this.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Don’t you have an obligation to speak out when someone says something that is not honest, when something is dishonest? I don’t see how it – I don’t – you have to --
MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen – I actually haven’t seen those specific comments.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I can pull them up and read them to you, but he says that he’s worried about --
MS. HARF: I always like it when you do that.
QUESTION: -- President Abbas’s life because the Israelis killed Arafat, which, I mean, I just don’t understand why you think that it is – it would be not helpful to come out and --
MS. HARF: I’m not saying I’m not going to have a response to that. I, quite frankly, just hadn’t seen it.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: I’m not saying I don’t want to respond to that. What I am saying is that broadly speaking, sometimes we register complaints privately because we think it’s more effective to do it that way, and sometimes we come out publicly and say things as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Because it --
MS. HARF: But there’s also a difference between commenting when the Secretary is there on the ground having meetings than when he’s not. There’s obviously a delicate dance we’re all doing here.
QUESTION: Right, I understand.
MS. HARF: And I know you understand that.
QUESTION: But it seems to me that – like when the Israelis announce new settlements, you come out and publicly say you think it’s a bad idea. And I don’t understand why it is when the Palestinians say something that’s inflammatory, then --
MS. HARF: Well, it’s just not a one-to-one comparison.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: It’s not.
QUESTION: You’re – well, you’re right, because --
MS. HARF: Every situation is different.
QUESTION: That’s right, because the settlements actually change something on the ground; and the Palestinian comments, while they might be offensive to the Israelis and might be offensive to others, they don’t actually change the situation on the ground.
MS. HARF: Which is an argument for not always commenting on every public comment.
QUESTION: Well, but the point that --
MS. HARF: You just made my point for me.
QUESTION: No, because the point that Prime Minister Netanyahu made is that the Palestinians are not – the leadership is not preparing the Palestinian people for an eventual peace deal --
MS. HARF: And I --
QUESTION: -- and these kind of comments would not seem to be helpful in preparing --
MS. HARF: Again, I’ll take a look at these specific comments.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask one on --
MS. HARF: We’re moving on from this. Yes.
QUESTION: Back on the process. So apparently, the Foreign Minister Lieberman has opened a side track with Palestinian senior officials about the peace process, apparently, according to news reports, that Secretary Kerry is aware of them. Can you share with us if he is aware of them? That will include the transfer of – we’re talking about the 6.8 in terms of land transfer with the ’67 border?
MS. HARF: So what we’re --
QUESTION: But he talks about moving people from inside Israel proper to the new Palestinian --
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. What we’re focused on is the negotiations that the Secretary and Ambassador Indyk are leading between the two sides. I’d refer you to Foreign Minister Lieberman for his activities. But we have a process in place, and that’s what we’re working on.
QUESTION: Sure, but obviously, there was – they were including that – concluding, rather, that Secretary Kerry is aware of these (inaudible).
MS. HARF: I will check. I will check with the team and see if I have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Well, is something like that helpful?
QUESTION: Is it helpful or hurt --
MS. HARF: I don’t even want to venture to guess about details of something I don’t even know if it’s true --
QUESTION: So is --
MS. HARF: -- to know if it would or would not be helpful. We think the process that we have in place that we’re a part of, certainly that the two parties have come together in is the way to move forward here.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary having a good working relationship with the Foreign Minister Lieberman as, let’s say, opposed to the former Secretary of State who apparently shut out Mr. Lieberman completely?
MS. HARF: Well, I have no reason to believe that the Secretary does not have a good relationship with the new – now new, not new anymore, recently new – Foreign Minister Lieberman.
QUESTION: Did he meet with him on this trip?
MS. HARF: I can check and see if they did. I know he has in the past.
QUESTION: Just a quick clarification. Based on the emails that are in possession of Times now, can you confirm that there was a change in stand of the U.S. from deporting the maid to bringing her family here and arresting the diplomat?
MS. HARF: As I told you, I’m not going to comment on private diplomatic correspondence or do analysis of it or give any further comments on it.
QUESTION: And – it’s no more private. It’s – media has it, so --
MS. HARF: Well, it actually is still private technically, so I don’t have any comment on it.