"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
1:15 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Wait, I’m sorry, I was – I thought he – where is the Secretary right now?
MS. PSAKI: On his way to Amman, Jordan.
QUESTION: Okay. And he’s going to be doing what there?
MS. PSAKI: While he’s in Amman, he will have – the schedule – this was just added over the last 48 hours given the events on the ground and the tensions on the ground in the region. So he’ll be meeting with King Abdullah. He’ll have a private dinner with him. He’ll also be meeting with President Abbas. Obviously, the schedule is still being finalized, but that’s what we have at this point in time.
QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that there’s a possibility that he might meet Prime Minister Netanyahu or some Israeli official?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again – I mean, if there’s something added to the schedule, we will certainly let you all know. But I would remind you that he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu probably almost every other day, and he’ll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Right, but I mean, you guys have made a big point out of – for the – over – since the tensions began --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- that – saying that all sides need to exercise restraint, all sides need to do more.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right.
QUESTION: And so if he’s only meeting with the king of Jordan and the president of the Palestinian Authority, that would suggest that you think that they are the ones that need to do more.
MS. PSAKI: It’s actually not suggesting that. That’s why I mentioned the calls, because he doesn’t speak with President Abbas as frequently on the phone. He and Prime Minister Netanyahu tend to speak frequently on the phone. As you know, President Abbas has a home in Amman, Jordan, so it’s pretty easy to reach him there. But if anything changes in the schedule, we’ll let you all know.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you --
QUESTION: What’s the timing of the meeting with Abbas? Is it today, tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: It’s still being scheduled. They don’t land for a few hours there. It’s later there, so tomorrow is the most likely option.
QUESTION: Can I just ask if – you probably saw the announcement in Jerusalem today of 200 new housing units in East Jerusalem. I’m – I assume that your position has not changed on this kind of activity, but could you remind us of what your position is? And also, does that have anything to do with why there isn’t any – yet any meeting with an Israeli official on the Secretary’s agenda?
MS. PSAKI: No. Just to address the meeting question first, this just came together in the last few days given tensions on the ground. And I’ll just reiterate again that he speaks frequently – almost every other day – with Prime Minister Netanyahu. So – and President Abbas has a home in Amman. That’s the reason where the – for why the schedule stands where it does.
In terms of the settlements, we – or the announcement, I should say, of new housing units in East Jerusalem – we are deeply concerned by this decision, particularly given the tense situation in Jerusalem as well as the unequivocal and unanimous position of the United States and others in the international community opposing such construction in East Jerusalem. These decisions to expand construction have the potential to exacerbate this difficult situation on the ground, and they will not contribute to efforts to reduce the tensions. So we will certainly continue to emphasize privately, as I just said publicly, our concerns.
QUESTION: Okay. That was an interesting semi-slip of the – are you exasperated with the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: I said “exacerbate,” the potential to --
QUESTION: I know, but you started to – sounded like you started to say “exasperate.” But anyway, I’m just wondering if you – are you exasperated with the Israelis for continuing to make these announcements when you say that they will cause the tension or have the potential to cause the tension to rise?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we feel they will exacerbate the difficult situation – the announcement of this construction, building will. That’s our concern about them. So certainly, we will continue to express to both the Israelis and the Palestinians our concerns and the need to do more.
QUESTION: Leaving aside whether you are exasperated or not – forgive me – are you not frustrated that the current Israeli Government repeatedly, continually, consistently flouts your advice on this, flouts your calls to cease this kind of activity, ignores or flouts your --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not just our view, Arshad. It’s the view of the --
QUESTION: I know, but I’m not talking --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. It’s our --
QUESTION: Well, wait. But I’m not talking to the whole international community here. I’m asking you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, but I think that’s relevant context.
QUESTION: But I’m not – I don’t care whether other people are frustrated about it.
MS. PSAKI: But it’s relevant.
QUESTION: I’m interested in whether the U.S. Government is frustrated about it. I can ask other people what they think. Are you frustrated that the Israeli Government repeatedly flouts your request that they cease this activity?
MS. PSAKI: As I stated, we’re deeply concerned by these announcements. I would – I referenced the international community not about who is exacerbate – like, you know what I’m saying; I’m not even going to try that anymore – who is --
MS. PSAKI: -- frustrated or not, but to make the point that this is a view held by many in the international community, not just the United States. That’s important context. Of course, we continue to raise these issues, but most importantly, they’re contrary to Israel’s own stated goal of achieving a two-state solution because they make it more difficult to do that.
QUESTION: I think, Jen, one of the reasons why Arshad and I are directing this question to you is because unlike other members of the international community, who you cite many of who agree with you, the United States Government has leverage with the Israelis in a way that the Europeans, for example, do not.
MS. PSAKI: We also have an important security relationship with Israel --
MS. PSAKI: -- and we are one of the greatest providers of security assistance to them as well.
QUESTION: So – right. Exactly. So – and no amount of announcements of new housing units or new settlements in the West Bank is going to have any impact on that security relationship, right?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. So you basically cede your leverage.
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t suggest that. I think our word means a great deal in the international community.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Quickly follow on this, do you agree that --
QUESTION: Do you think it means much to the Israeli Government?
MS. PSAKI: I think it does, Arshad. And I think that’s why we have an ongoing dialogue with them and why the Secretary’s speaking with them regularly.
QUESTION: If it means something to the Israeli Government, why do they continually not do what you ask them to do?
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t you ask the Israeli Government that question.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you, do you agree that this year has seen really accelerated settlement activities that, in fact, threatens the future of whatever initiative that you might have in terms of achieving or restarting the peace negotiations, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I just stated in response to Arshad’s question, obviously the ongoing construction announcements do fly in the face of the stated goal of achieving a two-state solution, because it predetermines or pre-decides where construction should be, where buildings should be, in other areas where settlements should be.
QUESTION: Okay. So the extent of your concern would basically be the statements that you just made, correct? We are not likely to see any action from the United States that can actually impact Israel’s decisions. Are we likely to see that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – Said, I think every country is going to make their own decisions. But obviously, I don’t think the Israelis want to see the tensions and the violence on the ground right now. They’ve stated they want to see a two-state solution, and certainly there are steps that need to be taken to achieve that.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Matt’s question, that you have leverage. Now other countries such as France, other European countries, where – they are recognizing the Palestinians. Will you follow suit? Ultimately, if they – if all the community in which you agree with – as you stated, this is an international position – if they one by one, if they go ahead and recognize the Palestinian state, will you do the same thing? Or will you sort of not counter any effort at the United Nations to pursue --
MS. PSAKI: Said, as you know, we support Palestinian statehood. We believe that it should be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues and end the conflict.
MS. PSAKI: That has consistently been our position.
QUESTION: I understand. But you support a Palestinian state within certain boundaries, correct? Within certain – on certain territories (inaudible) --
MS. PSAKI: We believe it should be negotiated, Said, between the parties.
QUESTION: Just – and I realize that the traveling people – the people traveling are a better place and the Secretary himself better place to get this, but would you expect the Secretary in his meeting with President Abbas to raise the issue of incitement that the Israelis have complained about – about the letter, the condolence letter that he sent to the family of the alleged (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll focus on de-escalating tensions, particularly surrounding Haram al-Sharif, the Temple Mount and the importance of maintaining calm. They’ll also likely discuss developments in Gaza, including reconstruction efforts. So I expect they’ll discuss a range of issues, including the increasing tensions on the ground.
QUESTION: Is it still the case that you’re not satisfied with what the Palestinians have done to try – or what the Palestinian leadership has done to try --
MS. PSAKI: We believe both sides can do more and continue to believe that.
QUESTION: And he would make the same case with Prime Minister Netanyahu --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- or other Israelis --
QUESTION: -- if he had the opportunity?
MS. PSAKI: And he will because he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu practically every other day.
QUESTION: I know. But there’s a difference between a phone call and/or a secure video call and actually being there on the ground and, say, coming out for a photo op or a press availability and saying directly to the leader’s face, whether that is President Abbas or Prime Minister Netanyahu, “Look, we think you need to do more.” There is a difference.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that point has been made to both sides and we’ll continue to make it.
QUESTION: Did you agree that – yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of Arafat’s death, and on that occasion, many Israeli politicians and ministers issued statements saying that Abbas is much worse than Arafat, that he was really a clever embodiment of evil, he incites all the time. Do you agree with any of these assessments? Do you believe that Yasser – I mean, Abbas intentionally provokes and incites against the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary continues to believe that President Abbas is not only a close friend – he doesn’t just believe that, he actively partakes in that friendship – but also he believes he is – continues to be an important partner for peace.
QUESTION: He actively partakes – (laughter) – okay. That’s --
MS. PSAKI: He doesn’t just believe they’re friends; he is a friend.
QUESTION: And by extension, he also believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu is?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s correct.
QUESTION: Okay. But the – with – the two sides don’t see each other that way. You acknowledge that that’s a problem?
MS. PSAKI: Agreed. But we continue to believe that they both can be partners for peace.
QUESTION: But does the Secretary believe that his personal friendship with each person can somehow bridge the divide?
MS. PSAKI: That is not at all what I said and wasn’t what Said’s question was.
QUESTION: I know. But that’s what I’m asking you.
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary believes it’s up to both leaders, it’s up to both the Palestinians and the Israelis to make choices needed to get back to the table.
QUESTION: Did you see there was some --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) negotiations are so hopelessly frozen – sorry, Jo. Is there any effort or any new initiative that – or we are likely to see, let’s say, in the next few weeks, in the next months?
MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll continue when the Secretary has meetings with King Abdullah and with President Abbas. They’ll certainly discuss broadly the need for a two-state solution and the importance of that path. But no, I don’t have any new initiatives to preview for you.
QUESTION: I wondered if you had a reaction to the torching of a mosque in the West Bank today by some Jewish extremists.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s see. The United States condemns the attack against a mosque in the West Bank. We believe that such hateful and provocative actions against a place of worship are never justified. We look to law enforcement officials to quickly investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. We encourage local authorities to work together with the community to reduce tension, to defend religious freedom, and to work against incitement.