"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
1:36 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. Happy Monday. I have nothing at the top.
Lara, go ahead and get us started.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m sure you saw the reports out of Jerusalem. Haaretz and Army Radio are reporting that the U.S. is planning to present an agreement early next year, or a plan for an agreement, for a permanent status between Israel and the Palestinians. Can you first say if this is accurate, and if so, can you elaborate to any degree?
Also, the reports make it sound like the U.S. is moving from a role of being a facilitator or observer now to an arbitrator or a participant in this process. Is that an accurate description?
MS. HARF: It’s not, and thank you for the question. I think what we’ve always said is that these are direct talks between the two sides and that we are playing a facilitation role when it’s appropriate. That means we’re in some meetings; we’re not in some meetings. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the process and reports about what the U.S. may do in the future.
I would say a few points. First, most of these are not true. The notion that somehow there’s – that it’s not – that we’re not focused right now. Excuse me. It’s Monday, everyone. Sorry. The notion that we’re not focused on the direct negotiations right now – all topics are on the table in these negotiations, and indeed, the goal is an agreement negotiated directly between the two sides that addresses all of the final status issues that they’re discussing right now.
So I know there are a lot of rumors out there about what is or isn’t happening. The two parties are still engaged in the process. We’ve said they’re – they both committed to a nine-month process. We have a little more time to go here until next year – I think it’s the end of March that would be the end of the nine months.
QUESTION: But is there something coming January, as these reports have indicated, some kind of plan or paperwork or framework or something written on bubble gum paper? I don’t know.
MS. HARF: (Laughter.) No. Again, I appreciate the question. What we’re focused on right now – who knows what will happen in a few months as a result of these direct negotiations, right? So that’s a hypothetical that I’m not going to answer in a yes or no way. What I will say is what we’re engaged in as a facilitator are the direct negotiations between the two sides. Hopefully, yes, at the end of this process something will come from this, from the two sides engaged in these negotiations. We continue to play a facilitation role.
Again, Ambassador Indyk is in certain meetings, is not in certain meetings, as appropriate. But I think these are all just wild speculation and rumor that is just not borne out by the facts that – going on on the ground right now.
QUESTION: So if I may follow up.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So would you say that actually the talks are making the progress that they should have?
MS. HARF: I think I would say that the talks are making progress. The two sides are engaged in negotiations. They’ve committed to a nine-month timeframe. Obviously, we’re not going to outline the specific outcomes that are coming out of each of these rounds of talks, but they remain committed to the process. We’ve seen each side take positive steps towards that end.
QUESTION: Okay. So as this timeframe runs out, I mean, like three months have passed, how do you measure progress? I mean, I know there’s a blackout and so on. How are we to know that there’s actually some progress on the ground and these guys will end up at the end of the nine months with something that is tangible, something that they can point to as a success?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly the goal. And I think you’ve heard the Secretary speak to it a little bit, that while we won’t read out discussion – substantive discussions that are happening between the two parties, the fact that they continue to happen and move forward and that we do see some signs of progress is a good thing. Obviously, we have the same – we all have the same goal at the end of this process to have an agreement to all of the issues they’re discussing right now. And we’re certainly tracking towards that goal.
QUESTION: So the Secretary’s upcoming meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah and so on, are they a sign of – are they a good thing or is there a problem? Is he going there because there are problems, or is he going there because things are really moving in the right direction?
MS. HARF: Well, as you know, the Secretary likes to be personally engaged in this issue. We’ve all, I think, been on trips with him where he has been. It’s certainly not a sign that there’s problems. He – when he has the opportunity to get on the ground and talk to the parties directly himself, he thinks that’s important to do. Obviously, our team there is engaged as well.
QUESTION: Do you believe that this pouting by the Palestinian team, from time to time, that they say we want to resign, we don’t want to go on with these negotiations, there is a problem – does it hurt the process? Are you disappointed that they do this from time to time?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to, Said, with your colorful characterization of it.
QUESTION: I’m referring to --
MS. HARF: But I think what we’re --
QUESTION: Let me explain what I mean by that.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Because from time to time, we hear the chief negotiator come out and say these talks are not going anywhere and I’m going to submit my resignation. I mean, this has become like a bad soap opera.
MS. HARF: Well, I think what we’re focused on and encouraged by is the fact that both sides remain at the table. And that’s what we’re focused on; that’s certainly where our efforts lie, to work with the two parties to, at the end of the nine months, have something tangible, as you said.
QUESTION: The Palestinians are saying that there’s no progress in the negotiations and there won’t be any progress without the American intervention. Why you’re not planning to intervene to help both sides to make progress?
MS. HARF: Well, we are playing a facilitation role, as appropriate, as both sides see it appropriately. Ambassador Indyk, again, as I said, is in meetings where it’s appropriate and isn’t when the talks just need to be between the two sides. I think one indication of the seriousness of these talks is that the folks actually participating in them, as Said said, aren’t talking about the substance publically, that they’re back at the table, that this isn’t going to play out in the press – in fact, we don’t want it to – to give it the best chance of success.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on one last point.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Now the Palestinians keep insisting that the Israelis have not moved at all from the point where they need or insist upon Palestinian agreement, and in fact, regional agreement that they maintain their troops along the Jordan Valley. Is that an issue that you raise with them, not necessarily in the negotiations, but let’s say at the level of the prime minister?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to go into any of the substantive discussions about any of these issues. They’re all on the table and they’ve being discussed between the two parties, with us in a facilitating role, as appropriate.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally on the aid to the Palestinians, do you have anything to update us on the aid to the Palestinians?
MS. HARF: I don’t. I can check with our team and see if there’s anything new. Nothing that I’m aware of.