"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Daily Press Briefing
June 15, 2009
QUESTION: One or two on Israel. Are the conditions set yesterday by the Prime Minister of Israel acceptable to the Administration? Is it wise to have a Palestinian state in the form and unarmed, as Prime Minister Netanyahu is suggesting or demanding (inaudible)?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think, Nick, you saw the President – well, I guess it was Robert Gibbs’s statement. It was the White House’s statement yesterday.
QUESTION: Well, but they didn’t say much, though.
MR. KELLY: Well, it welcomed that – the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu made an important step. We are committed to two states living side by side in their historic homeland. We believe this solution can and must ensure both Israel’s security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a viable state. And so we welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu’s endorsement of that goal.
QUESTION: With all these conditions, can it be a viable state? I mean, that Israel would maintain, I think, rights --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- over Palestinian airspace, it has to be demilitarized --
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, our policy is clear on this, that we want the conditions of – in the Roadmap fulfilled, we want Israel’s security to be ensured, we want the Palestinians to have their own homeland. In terms of what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday, we have our policy. This is the – of course, we’re involved in a negotiation now, and we’ll just see how things go forward in this negotiation. But our goal remains the same: a two-state solution, the two states living side by side in security and prosperity.
QUESTION: So you have your policy --
QUESTION: But on settlements --
QUESTION: Here you have your policy, the Israeli Government has its own policy, and you’re saying that in the near future there is no hope of perhaps aligning those two policies?
MR. KELLY: Well, this is – we’re going to sit down, I hope soon, and with all the different stakeholders and work out a solution. But I’m just not going to – I’m not going to characterize the prime minister’s situation in terms of – I’m not expressing this right.
We’re going to have – it’s going to be a complicated negotiation. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has laid out his point of view as he sees it, as the head of the Israeli Government. We’ve seen the reaction of various Palestinian officials and leaders. And we just want to reiterate that it is in the interests of everyone in the region to come up with a solution whereby you can have the state of Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side and looking to the future, a future of security and prosperity for both peoples of the two states.
QUESTION: Does the Obama Administration endorse Netanyahu’s view that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MR. KELLY: I know you’re focusing on the adjective there. We do think that, yes, the Palestinians need to recognize the right of Israel to exist, and I’ll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: But hold on a second. Do you – is the position of the Obama Administration that Israel should be defined as a Jewish state?
MR. KELLY: I’m going to let the President’s words stand. You know that yesterday he said that he was committed to the Jewish state of Israel. Senator Mitchell said it. And I’ll just let it stand at that.
QUESTION: President Clinton said when he was trying to work a deal in 2000, I believe, that demilitarization was acceptable. And I’m paraphrasing, but he did use the word “demilitarization.” Has the Obama Administration tacitly agreed with Israel that any Palestinian state would not be allowed to have a standing military?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think I’ll just say that in any solution that we work out, we need – Israel needs to have its security concerns taken very seriously and worked out. But I’m not going to jump ahead and say what exactly – what that package would entail specifically. This is something for the two parties to work out for themselves.
QUESTION: Can you say whether Secretary Clinton has communicated with any former Bush Administration officials in order to help clarify her own understanding of what commitments the United States may or may not have made to Israel in relation to settlement activity?
MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: What about settlements? The White House statement said nothing about settlements, this after two very clear statements from both the President --
QUESTION: -- and the Secretary about this issue. There are some on the Israeli right who are suggesting that perhaps the Obama Administration has backed itself into a corner. There’s also the policy concern of trying to reposition the U.S. as an honest broker according to some analysts. Where is the U.S. on the settlements?
MR. KELLY: Well, it couldn’t be clearer. The President has said it very clearly. My boss, Secretary Clinton, has said it very clearly. And that’s that we oppose continued settlement activity. Israel has an obligation under the Roadmap to freeze all settlement activity. Our position is that it has to stop. We know it’s a difficult issue, but it’s one that has to be addressed. And we’re continuing to discuss this issue with the Israeli Government, and we prefer not to conduct diplomacy from this podium.
QUESTION: Yeah, but this –
QUESTION: But still, though, is the U.S. willing to push that point enough for –
MR. KELLY: You’re asking me to get into what we may or may not do, and –
QUESTION: See, now you sound like the Bush Administration at this point.
QUESTION: But I mean, it sounds like you’re really making the settlement issue –
MR. KELLY: Are you trying to get me fired? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It sounds like you’re really making the settlement issue one of the main issues in your discussions with Israel. I mean, up until, you know, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have spoken on settlements, the traditional policy has been that settlements are unhelpful and you know our position on that. But now, I mean, for you to continue to say from the podium that settlements should stop indicates that this is one of the main points that you’re pushing with Israel.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. We’re focused on the goal here, and we think – and the goal is peace. The goal is two peoples living in their historic homelands. And there are a number of obstacles to this ultimate goal.
QUESTION: Ian –
MR. KELLY: I’m not saying that settlements is the main obstacle. It’s just one of the obstacles to this ultimate goal.
QUESTION: The Israeli prime minister on the Today Show this morning said that he hoped there was room for negotiation on the issue of natural growth. They seemed to indicate that there will be discussion on kind of how to finesse that with the Obama Administration. Is that your understanding?
MR. KELLY: Well, again, you’re asking me to get into what’s going to happen when we actually sit down and negotiate these things. But it has to be worked out first and foremost between the two parties themselves. We are a facilitator in this process.
QUESTION: But as far as the settlement freeze and negotiation on natural growth and what the understandings are, is there room for negotiation?
MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, our policy is clear. The settlement activity must be freezed. It’s an obligation under the Roadmap.
QUESTION: So why not criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech? Because he fell short in that area, didn’t he? It doesn’t meet your conditions.
MR. KELLY: We – again, we want to focus on how we can get to this ultimate goal that the whole world wants. And we take it as positive that he accepted this idea of two states living side by side beside the --
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)