"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
MS. PSAKI: That was a long question. I will venture to answer it.
Well, let me first say I know a lot of you have questions about this. s we were talking about this this morning, I think it’s important to remember that from the beginning of this process it’s always been up to the parties to make the choices needed to pursue a path to peace. So we – if we look back at the last several months, over the course of nine months even, there are unhelpful steps that have been taken by both parties. There have been ups and downs in the process throughout.
And still this process needs to work its way through. We, of course, have been in close touch with the parties, and let me just give you a quick – a readout of a call that the Secretary did this morning. Secretary Kerry spoke with President Abbas this morning. They discussed the recent developments in Palestinian reconciliation and the announcement yesterday. The Secretary reiterated our position, which we have made clear, of course, from this podium as well. The Secretary noted that he was disappointed by the reconciliation announcement and repeated the elements that any Palestinian government would need to have, the same principles that President Abbas has long supported.
President Abbas – again, they decided they would remain in touch. Of course, the principles – just to reiterate what I said yesterday but for those of you who weren’t here – the three principles are, of course, commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties.
They also discussed efforts underway that – the efforts that have been underway between Israelis and Palestinians to extend the negotiation. We – in the meantime, I also just wanted to reiterate that we view it as essential that both parties exercise – both sides exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalatory steps. Martin – Ambassador Indyk remains on the ground, as does our team, and we’re in close touch with both parties as well.
QUESTION: So you regard the developments of the last 24 hours to be just another bump in the road?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I expressed, as did the Secretary --
QUESTION: Well, you said there have been ups and downs, so --
MS. PSAKI: I meant broadly speaking throughout the process. There have been from both sides.
QUESTION: So this is not the end? This is not an insurmountable hurdle to the process?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, that is up to the parties to determine.
QUESTION: So you – but the United States – the Obama – the Administration and the Secretary is reserving judgment on whether this goose is cooked?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. So in his – has the Secretary spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MS. PSAKI: Not today. I expect he will sometime later today.
QUESTION: Okay. In his – you’ve said for days and days and weeks, months actually, or the last eight months, that despite the ups and downs that it’s going through, that both parties say that they remain committed to the talks. Is that still your understanding after the Secretary’s conversation with President Abbas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they did certainly talk about the benefits of peace and why we’ve been engaged in the process to date. But of course, choices need to be made by both parties, and we’ll see what happens in the days ahead.
QUESTION: Well – what do you mean, they talked about the benefits of peace? That seems a rather – I mean --
MS. PSAKI: The benefits of a final status agreement.
QUESTION: Did they talk specifically – no, I understand that. And I understand what you mean by it. But talking about the benefits of peace seems to be a far more abstract idea than saying – did the Secretary ask and get an answer about whether President Abbas or the Palestinians in general wanted to continue, at least Fatah wanted to continue the talks?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly --
QUESTION: He did?
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary talked about the benefits of a – and let me be just more clear here – of a final status agreement. We’ll let President Abbas and the Palestinians speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. So you cannot say today, as you said yesterday and as you said the before, ad infinitum going back to July, you cannot say today that both sides still tell you that they are committed to these – this process?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to report on that front, Matt. Of course --
QUESTION: So does it mean that --
MS. PSAKI: -- we – the fact that the Secretary engaged – part of the discussion was certainly about the negotiations and about extending the negotiations, and I expect he’ll talk with Prime Minister Netanyahu about that as well. So those conversations he’s still having with both parties.
QUESTION: Well, if you weren’t under the impression, or didn’t have the – or both sides weren’t telling you that they remain committed or remain interested in the – in this process to achieve a final status deal, would you still make the effort?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d still – we’re still making the effort because, again, there have been many ups and downs in the process. We’re seeking more information from the parties, and we’ll see what transpires over the coming days.
QUESTION: Okay. But what more information could you – when the Israelis say it’s done, we’re suspending, we’re not going back to the table as long as Hamas is – or as long as there’s this unity government going on, did the Secretary say – did – and did the Secretary hear from Abbas that he’s willing to try to – at least try to address the Israeli and your view that there’s no way that Israel could be expected to negotiate with a --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary certainly expressed, as I stated and reiterated, what those principles are. I’m not going to speak on behalf of President Abbas. I will say that, in our view, a statement of intention to form a technocratic government to prepare for elections is just that, a statement of intent. So we’ll judge what happens over the coming days.
QUESTION: All right. My last one --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- and I promise I’ll stop. Indyk will stay – would Indyk be staying if you did not think that there was still a chance?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s probably unlikely that he would stay if we didn’t want to continue to engage with the parties.
QUESTION: But does that mean you still think there’s a chance that you can get an extension beyond Tuesday? Tuesday?
MS. PSAKI: It’s up to them. Obviously, as I said yesterday, the timing of the announcement is – was unhelpful in terms of reaching an agreement on an extension. There’s no question about that. But Ambassador Indyk remains on the ground.
QUESTION: On --
QUESTION: Jen, could I just ask you what your understanding of a technocratic government is? I understand what the Palestinians have been saying, is it doesn’t – it won’t include any members of Hamas.
MS. PSAKI: That is what they’ve said, and that, in cases in the past, has been what they’ve said. But again, we have to see what transpires, what the details are, whether these principles are agreed to. There’s a lot of information we don’t have yet.
QUESTION: And did President Abbas actually tell the Secretary why he believed it was necessary to do this reconciliation agreement with Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not a part of the conversation I’m going to read out.
QUESTION: But I mean surely that’s – that actually goes to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? I mean, it could be that they just felt totally frustrated that they weren’t going anywhere with these talks, so they decided to do this step.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to remember, as you all know, that they have made similar announcements in the past. This is not the first time that they’ve made such an announcement, so we should all keep that in mind. But I don’t have anything to read out in terms of President Abbas’s reaction. I expect they’ll speak to that.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Did the Secretary try to persuade President Abbas to reverse this deal in any way?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary simply reiterated what our longstanding principles have been.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary make it plain, or was he able to ask Mr. Abbas what steps the PA is prepared to make in order to show good faith to the Israelis at this point, to show any efforts to bring along members of Hamas to, for example, renounce violence and also to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, as I said, these principles, as I mentioned – commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations – were – the Secretary restated those during the call, reiterated the importance of those for any unity government. President Abbas has supported those in the past, and certainly they talked about that. But I’m not going to --
QUESTION: But a simple restatement of the principles is not the same as actually asking President Abbas, “What are you doing to try to comply with what you say you support?”
MS. PSAKI: Well, he conveyed that any Palestinian government would need to have the same principles that President Abbas has supported, that I just outlined.
QUESTION: Did he get any satisfaction on the president’s answers?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak on his behalf. I would point you all to him --
QUESTION: But I’m asking what the Secretary’s view was.
QUESTION: And the answer was no.
MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not my intention. Obviously, at a sensitive time, I’m not going to speak on behalf of what their view is.
QUESTION: I’d like to know how, if you continue to not deal with half of the population, which is in Gaza, which are being represented only – which aren’t even being represented by Hamas, they’re just not being represented at all, how does that fit into the Secretary’s vision for a Palestinian state, where he’s talking about an economic initiative for the West Bank and Gaza, if the Palestinians will not reconcile and pave the way for an election where someone can represent all of the Palestinians and then Gaza can be developed and everything?
It just seems that your kind of principles on – I understand your three principles, but in order to get to that state – stage where you have a Palestinian government that’s speaking on all – on behalf, I just think it’s inconsistent with the vision that the Secretary has laid out.
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. Our position as the United States Government, outside of the peace process, has long been that abiding by – that any unified government would have to abide by these principles. That hasn’t changed. Obviously, the timing of this, five to six days – whatever mathematically the number of days is – before April 29th is one of the pieces that is unhelpful to the peace process.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, there are half a dozen things that the Israelis have done that have been unhelpful.
MS. PSAKI: I just said before you came in here, Elise, that there are steps that both sides have taken throughout this process that have been unhelpful.
QUESTION: And this has not been a long ongoing – these efforts at reconciliation, I mean, that don’t necessarily – I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re – it’s intended to do it right before. I mean, you could acknowledge that these negotiations on Palestinian reconciliation have been going on for some time.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would acknowledge, certainly, that they’ve made these announcements before. They’ve tried this before. It’s – that it is not a new effort, to your point, at all. So what I’m referring to is the timing of it around the peace process.
QUESTION: And isn’t this supposed to be kind of a – almost a caretaker government? Because even as they announce that there’s going to be a unity government, it’s really to pave the way for elections then?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a lot of different reports out there about what it would be and what it would look like, and we’re talking to them about that. But of course, abiding by the principles is certainly a part of what would be necessary.
QUESTION: But how do you see that the Palestinians could have elections for all of the Palestinian people without some kind of reconciliation of the Palestinian people?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Elise, it isn’t – I’m not stating what – that the view of the United States Government is opposition to reconciliation. I’m stating --
QUESTION: Well, it kind of is, though, isn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: I’m – well I’m – well, you’re familiar with it in terms of what we would expect form a unity government. That is what we would expect, and obviously, if a Palestinian government is formed, we’ll assess, based on its adherence to those stipulations and its policies and actions, what the implications for our relationship would be.
But there are several different layers of this, which I know is why we’re talking about it, but I mean, one is the peace process, one is reconciliation. They’re certainly linked because of what we’ve been working on here, but I wouldn’t gather them all into one bucket.
QUESTION: Jen, did Ambassador Indyk or did the Secretary --
MS. PSAKI: Wait. Let’s just do one at a time. We’ll – go ahead, Margaret.
QUESTION: Did Ambassador Indyk or did the Secretary ask for what this idea of a technocratic government would look like this time? Because you’ve said it’s been discussed in the past --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you outlined the principles which would be acceptable.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. We’ve been discussing that question with them since yesterday.
QUESTION: So this would be a proposal that the U.S. would entertain or thinks is worth exploring in some way?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s not our choice to make, obviously. Depending on what they choices they make, that could impact our relationship. But clearly, and to Elise’s earlier question, we want the Palestinian people to be successful, we want them to be prosperous. I know she referenced a dinner we’re having. That hasn’t changed. But these requirements and our expectations haven’t changed either about what would be needed.
QUESTION: I didn’t reference a dinner. I referenced a $4 billion economic initiative that’s supposed to include Gaza, and I don’t understand --
MS. PSAKI: There’s a dinner for it this evening.
QUESTION: I understand that. But what I’m saying is I don’t understand how you’re ever going to get that initiative to include Gaza if you don’t have some kind of representation that represents Gaza.
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of steps, obviously – again, our position is not – our position I think I’ve stated pretty clearly is about the need to abide by these principles. It’s not – it’s about the timing of this, how it impacts the process, and what would be required. Obviously, discussions are ongoing about all of those issues.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been given any indication that Hamas is going to renounce violence or recognize the state of Israel? Any indication whatsoever?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we don’t engage directly with Hamas, so unless they’ve --
QUESTION: Okay. Through – in his call with Abbas, for example.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out President Abbas’s comments. Obviously, he’s the leader of the Palestinian Authority, but we’ll continue to have these discussions. I think our view is well known.
QUESTION: And in the – there was a bilateral between Indyk and Abbas today. What was the message --
MS. PSAKI: A meeting?
QUESTION: Was there not, or was it a --
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that. I know he’s been – our team on the ground has been in touch with both parties.
QUESTION: Okay. If you have a readout for that --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ll have a readout. Obviously, we’re discussing the same items that I’ve outlined here just now.
QUESTION: Okay. But the principal --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Hamas, like, a little too much power here in terms of they’re the ones now that are scuttle – that are enabled to scuttle these negotiations? I mean, they didn’t say anything about President Abbas not continuing the negotiations with Israel. And I mean, it does seem as if all along, while their rhetoric says one thing, that there has been an implicit understanding that they would let him negotiate and let the Palestinian people decide whether they wanted a Palestinian state.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this is an important point that I’ve been trying to get at, but maybe I can do a little more clearly, is that President Abbas remains the head of the Palestinian Authority. This isn’t a statement of an intention to start a process. Obviously, the parties need to decide between themselves about whether they’re going to engage in a discussion about extending the negotiations.
To your point earlier, which I raised first as well, there have been unhelpful steps from both sides throughout this process, whether it’s settlements or the UN or whatever it may be. So they are both – they have both been guilty of that.
But yes, there are many mechanisms for moving the process forward, but it’s ultimately up to the parties.
QUESTION: Well, and don’t you also think it’s a bit inconsistent on one hand to say that President Abbas only represents half of the Palestinian people, and then when he tries to represent all of the Palestinian people through this agreement, then say that you can’t have peace with Hamas and peace with Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, in part, the Israelis and Palestinians will make a choice between themselves about – on what grounds they’ll negotiate. That’s always been the case from the beginning. Our relationship with President Abbas – I mean, Secretary Kerry has a strong friendship with him, a strong affinity for him, and works closely with him and wants to continue to do that.
MS. PSAKI: There are certain requirements – certainly. There are certain requirements based on law about what it would – what steps would mean for assistance, what it would mean for our relationship.
QUESTION: And don’t you think, though, that was like the big mistake in 2006, when, in fact, by not recognizing the Hamas government that was in power, that enabled them to take over Gaza and have the situation that you have today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I mean, I’m not going to do a rehash of history. Obviously, you look at things that have happened in the past, but this is a new case here. We’re trying to deal with the events as they’re happening on the ground. And things are incredibly fluid, as you all know, because there are new statements and comments that are made every couple of hours.
QUESTION: These should be very, very brief.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Three. There’s three of them, but they’re really brief.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, you mentioned the law and what that would mean for your assistance. Can you say what – has a determination been made if this – if a unity government goes ahead, what the effect will be under the law on the assistance or no?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: Still a hypothetical? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: No. That’s a hypothetical. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Okay. Two, elections. You talk about how this is a technocratic government or the statement of intent to form a technocratic government to prepare for elections. Do you – does the Administration believe that an election, Palestinian elections, at this point in time, or when they would be organized for, is a good idea? Is it time for the Palestinians to have another election?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re all familiar with history here, Matt. But, I mean, we’re just not at that point. This is simply a statement.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: We’re not at that point.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t have any problems with Abbas now, the 10th year of a 5-year term, this kind of thing? You don’t have any problem with that? You don’t think that there needs to be an election now, or yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any further analysis of that.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one is just about this dinner tonight here.
QUESTION: This is still going on? Is that what you said?
QUESTION: Can I just – how can – should a technocratic government that includes Hamas, a terrorist organization, come into power, how can you in good conscience urge or tell or ask American companies to go into the Palestinian territories and do business there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, again, those events haven’t happened yet. This is just a statement. Nothing has happened yet. So we’ll see. But this was a dinner that’s long been planned.
MS. PSAKI: We still support the future economic prosperity of the Palestinian people. And obviously the events that will transpire over the coming weeks will certainly impact a range of issues.
QUESTION: Okay. But at this dinner, the Secretary plans – and others on the U.S. Government side still plan to tell American businesses and other foreign businesses that it’s a good idea to invest in the Palestinian economy, to go in and do business there. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, Matt, events on the ground could impact; they may not impact. This is, again, just a statement that has been tried many times in the past. We, of course, remain in close touch with these businesses, as we will long after this --
QUESTION: So you’re counting on this unity – this reconciliation to fail?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not what I said. I’m just highlighting what’s happened in the past.
QUESTION: The principles that you’ve outlined yesterday and today are not just U.S. principles, they’re Quartet principles.
QUESTION: They’re principles of the UN, the EU, and the like.
QUESTION: Is your understanding that the Quartet has the position that you’ve outlined today and yesterday or --
MS. PSAKI: Those are their principles. I’m not sure if they’ve spoken to it. I would point you to them.
QUESTION: Okay. And just two weeks ago the Secretary, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outlined a chronology of events.
QUESTION: What do you see to be the chronology of events that’s happened since his last outline? Do you see there to have been a sort of poof moment at all that has brought us to the point we are today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Michael, that from the beginning we always knew that this would be a challenging process. And the Secretary engaged in it with both parties because he believed in the benefits of peace at the end of a – of the tunnel. So that has not been a surprise. And we’ve continued to pursue it, even through those ups and downs. So I know you write every day about these issues. I don’t think I need to do a chronology.
More on this issue? Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Just to clarify. So if this technocratic government says we abide by the principles, that would be enough? You don’t need a statement from Hamas separately?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of detail. Obviously, we don’t even have the details about what the technocratic government would look like. Any unity government would need to abide by these principles. But clearly this is just a statement, and we’ll continue to talk about this as events transpire over the coming days.
QUESTION: Can we move on to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Oh. Can we do one more – on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The suspension of any support to a government if it’s formed with Hamas, is this something that dictated by law? Can you walk us --
MS. PSAKI: By law, yes. But we don’t have any additional details at this point to make that determination. So if a new Palestinian government is formed, a unity government, we’ll have to assess based on its adherence to the stipulations I’ve outlined. We’re obviously not at that point yet.
QUESTION: So the Department of State makes that determination?
MS. PSAKI: No. Congress – there’s some mandates by Congress. But we’re not at that point yet either.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Jen, just trying to --
MS. PSAKI: I think – are we ready to move on to a new topic?
QUESTION: No, no. The same issue.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay. Go ahead. And then we’ll go to you.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m just trying to figure out when you say the law and you say cooperation or even dealing with Hamas, as much as I remember, I’m not going to go to 2006. I will go to 2012.
QUESTION: October 2012, Secretary Clinton – Hillary work with Hamas to make a deal. What’s the difference from that deal and now?
MS. PSAKI: There are many differences between the circumstances and what we’re talking about. And obviously, we’re dealing with what’s happening on the ground and what we think is in the interests of --
QUESTION: So my question is because you said principally that – in principle, they have to accept three factors, whatever you mentioned. But it was not mentioned that – I mean, sorry, what’s the difference?
MS. PSAKI: In order to form a unity government, and the unity government must abide by these principles.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: So another – maybe just a final point.
QUESTION: I mean, I’m trying to figure out – it seems that both sides are not interested to continue, or at least, as you said, they are doing unhelpful – taking unhelpful steps. So who is going to announce that it’s – the process is dead? You or the others?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have any such announcement to make.
QUESTION: A quick one?
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask whether you felt that by coming out yesterday with a very strong, saying that how can Israel be expected to negotiate with a government that includes a component that doesn’t support Israel’s right to exist, that you’ve actually given the Israelis a get-out clause? I mean, Prime Minister Netanyahu came out today. He told NBC that he believes that the pact with Hamas means peace is dead.
QUESTION: Perhaps if you’d said, more cautiously, that you want to see what’s in this agreement first, that maybe he might not have pulled out of the talks or suspended them.
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s probably unlikely. I will say, Jo, that I was referring to, as you guys were all asking, for good reason, about one specific event. But I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s important to take a step back and look at what’s happened over the course of several months of this process. And there have been unhelpful steps taken by both sides. There have been challenging days with both parties. That has been – and there have been ups and downs caused by both parties throughout the process. So certainly, as we look at what’s happened, we should reflect on that.
QUESTION: Have any of them been as challenging as the last 24 hours?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re not going to rank them, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, would you say that this is the biggest threat? Considering the fact that you’re not willing to concede that this party is over, would you say that it is – this is the greatest threat so far in this eight and a half months, or eight and three quarters months?
MS. PSAKI: I would not say that, because I think it’s up to the parties to make that call.
QUESTION: But isn’t it up to – but it is obviously up to the parties to make that call.
QUESTION: But as the body that’s binding them together in this process --
QUESTION: -- isn’t it incumbent on you, to a certain extent, to maintain some kind of neutrality and to lead them back to – a bit like toddlers, I suppose – lead them back to a more reasonable position?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, as I mentioned, we’ve been engaged with both parties – both on the ground, the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, he spoke with President --
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MS. PSAKI: That’s what I just said.
QUESTION: You said foreign minister.
MS. PSAKI: No, I said prime minister.
QUESTION: All right. Sorry.
MS. PSAKI: -- and President Abbas today, and we’re engaged with both parties. And there have been times throughout the last several months where we have pointed out unhelpful steps taken by both sides.
QUESTION: So are you also trying to lead Prime Minister Netanyahu towards a position where he could find it within his remit to actually negotiate with a government which may or may not include some – which may include some Hamas people?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we have our position, Israel has their position. Again, there haven’t been steps taken beyond this statement, so we’ll see what happens, and those discussions are ongoing with both parties.
QUESTION: Just one more on this.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll move on soon.
QUESTION: So is it your understanding that in order – because the talks are now suspended in theory for an indefinite period until one of two things happens: either Hamas renounces violence and accepts Israel as a state, or the reconciliation deal is scrapped? Is that correct? One of those two things has to happen?
MS. PSAKI: I think there are a range of options. I’m not going to lay out the playbook here.
QUESTION: Okay. Are there – because I can’t think of any others. You don’t have any suggestions or --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to do analysis from the podium.
The briefing was concluded at 2:54 p.m.)
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