"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Daily Press Briefing
February 5, 2014
1:13 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Is there any news from the Secretary’s meeting this morning with Mr. Blair?
MS. PSAKI: Let me – I don’t have any readout for you. Which meeting? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Tony Blair.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, Blair, Tony Blair. Sorry. I thought you said Bear; I thought who is that? (Laughter.) Tony Blair. He meets with him regularly, as you may or may not know, including on the road. He just met with him when he was on this last trip in Germany. It’s regular consultations about the ongoing negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, so it’s not meant to be a news deliverer; it’s meant to be a consultation. He respects his opinions and views, and they often talk about what’s happening in the peace process.
QUESTION: So it’s not a hint that the framework agreement may be announced soon?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not an indication of anything on timing. It’s just an effort to consult with somebody he respects his views on the process.
QUESTION: Well, what is happening with the peace process? Since you said that that’s what they discussed.
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: How’s it going?
MS. PSAKI: It’s great, Matt. There are ongoing negotiations. Ambassador Indyk is in the region. He’s working with both parties, talking to both parties. And our focus remains on closing the gap on these issues and working towards a framework for negotiations.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the attempts by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Livni and other Israeli officials to tamp down some of the invective rhetoric coming from other Israeli officials, which now – and spiritual leaders as well? I just saw something about a group of very Orthodox rabbis saying that the Secretary declared war on God, and using words like, well --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke with the Secretary about this particular issue – not your exact question, but this morning – and where he stands at this point is he’s not going to spend a lot of time worrying about words people are using against him. His greatest concern about this is the impact they have or they could have on the process, that the words aren’t an attack on him, they’re actually an attack on the peace process itself. He knows that trying to create peace isn’t a favor – and this is something he conveyed this morning – isn’t a favor we’re doing, and it’s very much his view, for the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s something that people in Israel and – the Israeli people and the Palestinians very much want. So while he has a tough skin and he’s been through a lot more difficult circumstances than having personal verbal attacks thrown at him, he is – he wants the focus to be on these tough issues.
QUESTION: Right, but considering – if, in fact, he does believe – and I’m sure he probably does – that these are not really – these are attacks more against the peace process --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and he is the messenger of the --
QUESTION: -- of that peace process, are you satisfied with the attempts that have been made, apparently been made, by the prime minister and the justice minister, to rein – and the president of Israel also to try to rein in this – I don’t even know what you call it --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- rein in this clearly inflammatory rhetoric?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what happens over the coming days and weeks, Matt. I think the challenge here is that it’s hard to evaluate until you have a circumstance. Obviously, the events of the last weekend, I think I’ve spoken pretty extensively to those and the Secretary’s view on that. But we have a long way to go in this process, and I think his view is that some of this is a sign that the heat is on and we’re getting down to the difficult issues. So it’s hard for me to evaluate whether we’re satisfied or not. I think the question is whether his record and his words will continue to be mischaracterized.
QUESTION: Well, maybe satisfied is the wrong word to use --
QUESTION: -- but are you – do you think that – are you seeing the rhetoric being toned down now or not?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the comments this weekend were more heated than the comments over the last couple of days, but there continue to be concerning comments made.
MS. PSAKI: And I think what would be a successful outcome would be for parties to focus their efforts on grappling with these tough issues and taking on these tough issues, and that’s what he thinks the focus should be on.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch --
QUESTION: Just – could I just ask --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Can I just ask --
QUESTION: -- you said that the Secretary believes that these aren’t an attack necessarily on him but attack on the peace process. Does he fear that it could – this invective could damage the peace process and the efforts to bridge the gaps? Could it drive the sides further apart?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that process it ongoing even at the same time. And I talked about this a little bit earlier this week, but even on Sunday, he was meeting with Justice Minister Livni and Yitzhak Molho while some of these comments were being made. And certainly his hope is that the focus will be on what the lasting peace will bring to the Israeli and Palestinian people. And that’s what people will talk about. So --
QUESTION: But you have an atmosphere which is already very tense. I mean, issues which haven’t been decided or agreed on for the last 60 years. If you’ve got this kind of poisonous atmosphere that’s being injected into the process, doesn’t that make his job more difficult?
MS. PSAKI: Well, any rhetoric is – any damaging rhetoric or rhetoric that is inaccurate and as critical as this is is never helpful. But I think the larger point here is this process is not about Secretary John Kerry. This process is about what the future for the Israeli and the Palestinian people and the prospects of peace and security and prosperity. And that’s what he thinks people need – should be – need to be reminded of, in addition to the fact that these kind of attacks are unacceptable, and they not only distort his record but they distract from the real issues at hand.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) indulge me if you would.
QUESTION: I have a couple of follow-up. Yesterday, in an event, the think tank in towns and so on – the suggestion from the podium, by the way, in which one of your former diplomats participated – was that the success that we have seen so far is because Secretary Kerry finally hugged Bibi. And the meaning by that is that he adopted the Israeli position on refugees, on the right of return, on having Israeli presence along the Jordan Valley, and so on. Do you agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t. One observation we were making this morning is given that there is criticism from both sides, that sometimes is a sign that either you’re doing things right or it can’t possibly all be correct, because it’s conflicting. So the truth here is, Said, nobody knows what it is in the framework.
MS. PSAKI: And so there are a lot of guesses and suggestions and hopes and proposals, but nobody knows what is in the framework. There is not a final framework. The parties are obviously discussing it. There are strong emotions and there’s strong history on these issues. But any characterization of it is inaccurate because it’s not final.
QUESTION: Yeah. But the suggestion was that Secretary Kerry should tell the Palestinians plainly that you can’t have a right of return and a state. It is either the state or the right of return. Do you agree with that premise?
MS. PSAKI: There are lots of experts in policy, policy folks who are making proposals. Obviously, this discussion is ongoing between the parties.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- would you comment on the announcement for building a new settlement, 558 houses?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Well, our position on Jerusalem is clear. We oppose any unilateral actions by either party that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. We’ve called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations. And that is certainly a message we’re sending on the ground as well.
QUESTION: Let me understand something clearly. When you say “either party,” are the Palestinians also taking land and building settlements in Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m making a broad point about actions taken by either party.
QUESTION: Jen, did you – you say nobody knows what’s in the framework.
MS. PSAKI: There is not a --
QUESTION: The framework doesn’t exist. Correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. That’s my point. So how can you know what’s in it?
QUESTION: But surely they have been talking about something other than the weather for the past seven months.
MS. PSAKI: Of course they have.
QUESTION: So – at least one would hope so, because they’ve spent a lot of time and money doing it. But since they have been discussing what would go into the framework, clearly people know what the elements are that would make up --
MS. PSAKI: Well, and Matt --
QUESTION: -- the framework, so --
MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve talked about what the core issues are that will be addressed.
MS. PSAKI: The point I’m making is that given where we are in the process, given it is decision time on these tough issues, of course there are going to be raw emotions about what is or isn’t in a final framework. But my point is that because it doesn’t exist yet in terms of a final document, that it is inaccurate for any characterization of what has been – what is in there.
QUESTION: So would your suggestion be for all the people who are getting upset, screaming and yelling right now, to just hold onto their anger and their vitriol and once a framework is agreed, then let loose? Is that the idea?
MS. PSAKI: My suggestion is – you know we’re big proponents of freedom of speech, but for anybody who’s looking at what is accurate and what is – the details are, to take it with a grain of salt, given where we are in the process.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch the Israeli settlers council’s video ridiculing his Middle East peace efforts?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he’s watched the video. We’re certainly aware of the video.
QUESTION: Have you watched it?
MS. PSAKI: I have not personally watched it, no.
QUESTION: Any reaction to it?
MS. PSAKI: I think it goes in with what I’ve already stated about attempts to mischaracterize his record, his position, his positions on issues, his statements, how that is not an attack on him; that’s an attack on the process. And of course that kind of rhetoric we find unacceptable.
QUESTION: Even in parody? I mean, clearly the Secretary does not believe that Jerusalem is a holy city for hobbits and Klingons, right? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, I have not seen the video, Matt, so perhaps --
QUESTION: Well, that’s one of the things that’s in there, so --
MS. PSAKI: Perhaps – now you’ve sold it very well. I will watch the video. I’m making a broad point about all the different reports that are out there.
QUESTION: But I mean, this is just – it’s parody, although it may have – it may seem a serious point, it is in itself ridiculous. He does not believe that Jerusalem is a holy city to fictional --
MS. PSAKI: To hobbits?
QUESTION: -- to fictional --
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s fair to run as an AP headline.
QUESTION: What about Klingons?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: They’re affectionate, too.
MS. PSAKI: I love Klingons.
QUESTION: So it could be a --
MS. PSAKI: Nothing having to do with the peace process. Let’s just do a few more here. Go ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)
DPB # 23