"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
12:37 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian issues?
MR. RATHKE: Sure.
QUESTION: I presume you saw the announcement by a municipal authority that it had approved the construction of an additional 78 housing units in settlements that the Israeli Government regards as having been annexed to Jerusalem, part of greater Jerusalem. Does the U.S. Government have any view on this settlement announcement, or this housing construction announcement? And do you think that it is in consonance with your call yesterday for all sides to do what they could to reduce, rather than raise, tensions?
MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, let me start with one sentence of context, which will be clear to, I think, most, but at any rate: The President and the Secretary strongly condemned yesterday’s attack on worshippers at the synagogue in Jerusalem – we talked about that in some detail yesterday – which killed five innocent people and injured several more.
With regard to the plan for construction activity in East Jerusalem, we would reiterate our clear and consistent opposition to construction activity in East Jerusalem. During this sensitive time in Jerusalem, we would see such activity as inconsistent with the goal of lowering tensions and seeking a path towards peace. That’s – and our concerns are well known to Israel’s leaders, and we continue to make those concerns known.
QUESTION: To ask what is typically Matt’s question: Are there any consequences --
MR. RATHKE: His spirit is in the room? Is that what you’re saying, Arshad?
QUESTION: His – are there any consequences to the Israeli Government for acting directly in contravention of your publicly stated position and in a manner that you regard as inconsistent with your goal of reducing tensions? Do they – are there any consequences for the Israeli Government, or not particularly?
MR. RATHKE: Well, we remain in close contact with the Israeli leadership. And we mentioned yesterday the Secretary, in particular, was in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we continue to call on President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, leaders on all sides to reduce tensions. I’m not going to get to more – get further down the road.
QUESTION: Do you regard being in contact with the Israeli Government as punitive for them?
MR. RATHKE: Well, I think our position on this is well known. It hasn’t changed, and we continue to make that position known.
QUESTION: Have you reiterated it to them today? And if so, at what level?
MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to get into the level of diplomatic discussions, but we continue to make our concerns about this issue known.
QUESTION: Okay, but does that mean that you’ve made your concerns known about the latest announcement of these 78 units, or not?
MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to give a tick-tock of every single diplomatic conversation we have with the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: I don’t want that.
MR. RATHKE: If we haven’t, we will. I just can’t say with certainty that a meeting happened today; the announcement was made today. But certainly our view is known and we will continue to make it known.
Yes, Scott. Sorry, anything else on this topic?
MR. RATHKE: Same topic? Please.
QUESTION: Yes. You talked at length about house demolitions yesterday, so at the risk of making you repeat yourself – there was a demolition today. Netanyahu promised further demolitions. He also said, with a “heavy hand, we will restore security to Jerusalem.” Do you see those actions and those words as escalatory, or at this point, what we should expect?
MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to put a label on it, but as I’ve said in response to Arshad’s question, we’ve made it clear that all sides have to work together to lower tensions. And we believe that punitive home demolitions are counterproductive in an already tense situation. This is a practice I would remind that the Israeli Government itself discontinued in the past, recognizing its effects. I – so I would say, once again, that we believe this is a time for leadership and for all sides to take steps to calm tensions.
QUESTION: Have they conveyed to you at all why they are resurrecting that practice then?
MR. RATHKE: I think that they can speak for themselves about that.