"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
MS. HARF: Yes. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You guys have – about the settlements, Israeli settlements, you guys have said these are not helpful. You’ve urged Israel to show some restraint, and yet you guys are just completely silent on this latest round that’s going to come up on the settlements that everybody says is going to really be a problem for moving the negotiations forward. So why are you guys so silent on this?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The next thing that’s coming up is a prisoner release this evening, I believe, Monday evening Israel time. I’d make a few points on that and then we can talk about settlements, that the Secretary expresses his appreciation for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to release the third tranche of prisoners. I know that’s happening tonight Israel time, so we’ll all be following that.
The Israeli Government’s commitment to release Palestinian prisoners helped enable the start, as we all remember, and the continuation of the final status negotiations, and we believe this is a positive step forward in the overall process. So that’s sort of the next step that’s coming here.
I know there have been various media reports about possible other announcements to come in the future, but right now we’re focused on what’s happening tonight. The Secretary’s going back there this week, and we’ll continue the discussions going forward.
QUESTION: Now, following up on what Deb --
QUESTION: So --
MS. HARF: Wait, Deb – hold on, Said. Let me finish up with Deb and then we’ll go to you.
QUESTION: Well, it’s obvious that they’re going to make this announcement. I mean, everybody has said it.
MS. HARF: Well, again, I’m not going to --
QUESTION: Even he said it, I believe.
MS. HARF: I am not going to put words in anyone’s mouth here.
QUESTION: So I mean, is the U.S. --
MS. HARF: I leave it up to the Israeli Government to make announcements if and when they do.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. encouraging them not to do this?
MS. HARF: Again, we’ve made it very clear throughout this process what our position is on settlements, and we encourage all sides to take steps to create a positive environment when we’ve had issues over these past few months. At times we’ve said so, but we’re keeping the discussions of these negotiations private for the reason that we’ve always said, which is to give them the best chance of success.
QUESTION: How do you characterize his trip going back this time?
MS. HARF: How do we characterize the trip?
QUESTION: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
MS. HARF: Well, as folks know – just to give a little background on it – he’ll be going to Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and to Ramallah to meet with President Abbas. In these meetings, he’ll be focusing on the permanent status negotiations, as we have in the past. During this trip, the Secretary will discuss with both leaders the proposed framework for negotiations. As we’ve said, this framework would serve as guidelines for the permanent status negotiation and would address all the core issues.
This is a detailed consultation with the leaders, continuing to work to bridge gaps between the parties, obviously continuing to encourage both sides to take constructive steps, as we said, including the prisoner release this evening in Israel as well.
So these consultations will be going on for a few days. And I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the discussions, and we’ll talk more about them, I’m sure, as they’re ongoing.
QUESTION: Can you just --
MS. HARF: Let me go to Said, and then I’ll come up.
QUESTION: Yeah. Could we – would you say that there is a pattern? Every time they release prisoners or a tranche of prisoners, as you call them, of 26, we hear about 15 – 1,200 new housing units. Is there a pattern there? Do you detect a pattern?
MS. HARF: Said, I’m not going to characterize it in that way. Throughout this process, when one side – either side has done something we see as constructive, we say so. When there have been issues, we’ve said so. And we certainly have these discussions privately. I don’t want to put a label on it. These are complicated issues. We believe that the best place to resolve them is at the table through final status negotiations.
QUESTION: We understand. But one cannot help but notice that over the past three tranches of prisoners release, every time they were released there was also an announcement of settlements. So you don’t notice that this has been some sort of a pattern?
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to use that word, Said. We – every time we move this process forward, we talk to both sides about how it will go forward and what will happen, and I don’t want to get ahead of what’s happening here now.
QUESTION: Okay, and on the framework or the – what did you call – framework agreement and so on, would you say that – would you agree or concur or tell us whether it is predicated on three sort of phases – three stages, one that maintains actually Israeli presence, Israeli military presence right along the Jordan Valley?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into any of the details at all of the discussions around this proposed framework. We’ve been very clear that we’re not going to discuss those details in public while the ongoing negotiations are happening.
QUESTION: And finally, today Mr. Netanyahu insisted that the Palestinians must do two things, which is: recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and second, give up the right to return. Would you agree with him that these should be conditions that should be put forward for --
MS. HARF: I appreciate your persistence, but we’re just not going to get into the details of the discussions we’re having.
QUESTION: Marie, I’m trying to back up a bit because the framework agreement, the language has now entered into the discussions and the conversations that you’re having following the talks that were given in the Saban Center earlier this month. What is the actual purpose of a framework agreement, and how does this lead us towards what you – what are you trying to achieve at the end of April? What will that be?
MS. HARF: So it would serve as guidelines. The framework agreement would serve as guidelines – and I don’t know if I would use the word agreement; I would use the term “proposed framework” because it’s only a proposed framework at this point – would serve as guidelines for the permanent status negotiations. This framework would address all the core issues.
So it’s not – some people say this would be an interim agreement. No, that’s not the case. It would address the guidelines around all the core issues that are part of the final status negotiations.
We’ll see how much progress we can make this time. The framework would be a step in the efforts to achieve the permanent status agreement, again, that addresses all of the issues outlined in the framework. So we’re hoping to make progress in narrowing the gaps on this trip, but don’t want to predict whether we’ll reach agreement on this framework during these few days on the ground.
QUESTION: And why is it being decided that you now need a frame – a proposed framework towards the eventual final status agreement?
MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t characterize it as a new decision. We just haven’t always talked about these discussions publicly. It makes sense as part of negotiations – and we can go back at some in history on this as well – that you have to have guidelines around the issues. If you start with nothing and you know all the issues are on the table, it makes sense to put some guidelines around the discussions of each of the final status issues to drive the process forward. It sort of just is the natural progression of these talks, and hopefully we’ll continue narrowing the gaps and get a framework soon.
QUESTION: So is the idea still to reach a final status agreement by the end of April, early May?
MS. HARF: The Secretary’s been clear what the timeframe is. The parties have agreed to sit down for that nine-month period. We’ll see how much progress we can get made during this trip, and we can talk more about how much all of this takes. Obviously, we know it’s a complicated process, but we’re still operating under that nine-month timeframe.
QUESTION: Because there was some reporting over the weekend I saw that the idea was in late April, early May, at the end of the nine months, you would get an agreement for a further year of talks. Is that correct?
MS. HARF: I know there’s lots of reports out there about what may or may not happen. What we’re focused on right now is the Secretary’s trip this week, working on the framework, working to narrow the gaps, and we’ll just move forward from there. There’s a lot of rumor – some true, some not – out there, and we’re just not going to fact-check them publicly.
QUESTION: But at the moment, you’re still targeting end of April for final – or May, correct?
MS. HARF: That’s always – yes. Nothing’s changed in terms of our timing, and we’ll see how much progress we can make this week.
QUESTION: And can you break down the framework – the proposed framework into chapters, like security, housing, settlements?
MS. HARF: I mean, I said it addresses all of the core issues. We all know what those are. I’m not going to go further in terms of outlining what the framework might look like. Again, it’s just a proposed framework. We have to talk to both sides about it. Obviously, this is their process to
drive forward. And so I just – we’re not going to outline further what that looks like.
QUESTION: Other subject?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we stay on this subject?
QUESTION: Two questions just to follow up.
MS. HARF: Just a few more on this and then we’ll move on.
QUESTION: The first one is since you’re talking about the final status issue, there was reports that actually the Israelis are focusing only on security. So do you discount that this is actually – this agreement is going to only be on security as a first step, and then after that you’ll follow on the final status issues?
MS. HARF: As I just said, the framework would address all of the core issues. Obviously, security is a huge part of this for everyone, but the parties agreed to sit down and restart final status negotiations on all of the issues. That has in no way changed.
QUESTION: But the focus will not going to be on security?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s a huge focus, of course, but there’s a number of issues, as we all are well aware of, that are part of these negotiations. And the framework would address all of them.
QUESTION: On – second one, just on settlements.
MS. HARF: One more. Yes.
QUESTION: Apart from stating the U.S. position always that it’s obstacle to peace, et cetera, are you in a position to influence Israeli behavior over the years, I mean, apart from the first Bush administration of using the loans as a threat? Is this anything that you can do apart from condemning it from the podium?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you’re oversimplifying what is a long and very deep relationship, quite frankly, that is very focused on the peace process but is focused on other issues as well. We work very closely with the Israelis on a whole number of issues, including as part of these peace talks. But at the end of the day, as we’ve made very clear and the Israelis have also said, these are decisions that are up to them to make and the Palestinians to make. We can facilitate the discussion and we can play a role, as we are, but these are decisions for the Israeli Government to make. They have both sat down at the table and taken courageous decisions, including tonight’s prisoner release, to move the peace process forward. It’s complicated; there’s a lot at play here. But we’re just going to go back to work later this week and see what we can do.
QUESTION: But my point is you just raise it privately, as you’re saying, and you condemn it publicly here, but has not altered Israel position over the years.
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not – we clearly have a close relationship with the Israeli Government. We talk about a host of issues. But these are decisions for them to make. We make our positions clear, as you said, publicly and privately.
QUESTION: Fair enough. Do you have a timeframe for reaching the proposed framework?
MS. HARF: We don’t. As I said, we’re going back this week. We’ll see how much progress we can make. I don’t have a specific timeframe for you.
QUESTION: You now have two sets of agreements that you’re working on --
MS. HARF: Well, no, it’s not actually two sets. It’s all part of the same.
MS. HARF: It’s a process. This is just a step in the process. It’s not a separate process. It’s all part of the same process. So we’ll see how much progress we can make this week.
DPB # 210