"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
2:15 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the Israeli settlement construction announcement?
MR KIRBY: We’re aware of reports that the Government of Israel intends to advance plans for hundreds of housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem. If it’s true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution. We oppose steps like these, which we believe are counterproductive to the cause of peace. In general, we’re deeply concerned about settlement construction and expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the design – and the – I’m sorry, the designation of land throughout the West Bank for exclusive Israeli use.
As the Quartet report highlights, since the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993, the population of settlements has more than doubled, with a threefold increase in Area C alone. Currently, there is at least 570,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Moreover, approximately 100 settlement outposts in Area C have been built without formal Israeli Government approval, making them illegal even under Israeli law. Again, as the Quartet report makes clear, these actions risk entrenching a one-state reality and raise serious questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.
QUESTION: Given that you raise the idea of this as a systematic process of land – land expropriation or land seizures or however you put it, what is the U.S.’s systematic response beyond just saying this is bad every time? Do you have a systematic approach to counteracting this trend that is blocking peace, in your opinion?
MR KIRBY: Our approach has been consistent throughout. First of all, calling it like we see it and not being afraid to do that; having tough discussions with Israeli leaders about this and being willing to continue to do that; working inside the Quartet, and the Quartet report addresses this pretty clearly as I just said; as well as working with other members of the international community to try to see if we can advance a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Do you – do you – the way I understood it was this is a response to the violence. Do you see the notion of settlement expansion as a consequence of violence as an appropriate countermeasure?
MR KIRBY: Look, I’m – I really am loath to get into analyzing cause and effect here in terms of connecting that particular dot. We’re obviously deeply concerned about violence and we condemn the recent attacks. There’s – and we’ve said this before – no justification for terrorism, no justification for the violence, no justification for the taking or maiming of innocent life. And so we’re going to continue to look for leaders in the region to do what they need to do, take the affirmative steps that are required, and act – demonstrate leadership to take down the tensions to reduce the violence to get us to help create the conditions for a two-state solution. That doesn’t change, however, at all our opposition to settlement activity, which we believe is illegitimate.
QUESTION: I have a last one, tangentially related. The wife of a man killed in a West Bank attack was an American citizen. I think the car was shot at and it was just another American – I think it might have been Hebron – another American who almost died in this case. Are you having conversations with the Palestinians about the rising American death toll in this wave of violence?
MR KIRBY: Obviously, we’re – any death and any injury is significant when it results from this sort of violence. And so our conversations with leaders on both sides are about, again, taking steps to reduce the violence so that innocent people can go about their lives – all innocent people can go about their lives.
QUESTION: Do you think that that --
QUESTION: But your first job’s to protect Americans --
MR KIRBY: And we take that very --
QUESTION: -- and there are --
MR KIRBY: And we take that very seriously.
QUESTION: Well, a lot – there’s been several now, I think, killed in this wave of violence --
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- more than in a lot of places where you have --
MR KIRBY: We take that – no, we take that very seriously, but --
QUESTION: -- deeper engagement.
MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to --
QUESTION: Even military engagement in some places.
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to detail the specifics of diplomatic discussions we may be having on this. I can tell you obviously we take that responsibility very seriously. But more broadly speaking, we want to see all innocent life protected.
QUESTION: And do you think that the Palestinian attackers are attacking Americans on purpose? Do you think that they are targeting Americans?
MR KIRBY: As I said, I’m not going to analyze each and every specific act here from the podium, Said.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Brad’s question, do you ask the Palestinians to investigate whether there’s actually been deliberate attacking or deliberate targeting of Americans?
MR KIRBY: We want – first of all, we want the attacks to stop.
QUESTION: Right, I understand. But things that have already taken place.
MR KIRBY: And obviously – obviously we would – we – and we’ve said this before – we welcome thorough, complete investigations on these matters, transparent investigations by all sides. But I’m not going to get into a discussion of each and every one.
QUESTION: According to the Israeli press, the Palestinian Authority is getting ready to cut off all relation with the Quartet because they feel that the report was completely biased towards Israel. First of all, are you aware of these reports? And second, are you having a conversation with the Palestinians on this very issue?
MR KIRBY: I think what we’ve seen is a PLO statement that takes issue with some aspects of the Quartet report, and that’s our understanding, is that this is more a statement of their concerns and objections to the report itself. And as I said last week, we fully expected that there would be objections, that there will be concerns, that not everybody would like everything that they read in there. But I’ll say it like I said last week – I’ll say it again – both sides had input and we valued – welcomed and valued that input.