"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
1:24 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Great. Thank you. I noted the Secretary’s statement earlier today about the abduction and murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. I’m wondering if you can give us a little more information on what the Obama Administration knows about the circumstances or the motive of this killing.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Lara, there is an investigation that authorities are looking into this tragedy. A number of Israeli and Palestinian officials have condemned it. Prime Minister Netanyahu has called today for sides not to take the law into their own hands. The Secretary has also been in touch today with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I expect he’ll continue to be in touch with both sides, as our teams on the ground are as well. So I don’t have anything to convey to you, and I don’t want to prejudge the investigation.
QUESTION: But it seems that this is being linked to the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. And so I’m wondering what makes anyone think – or is there any evidence that suggests that they are linked?
MS. PSAKI: Well again, Lara, that’s the reason why there is an investigation. And what we’re – what we’ve conveyed from here – and obviously, the Secretary’s statement did this strongly – is the need to refrain from violence, the need for all sides to find an alternative path forward. Clearly, our hearts go out to the families of those who have suffered with recent events, including the deaths of the three teenagers. But we’re going to let the investigation play itself out, and certainly, we would condemn in the strongest terms these despicable acts of violence.
QUESTION: But even the use of the phrase – you’re urging people to not take the law into their own hands. That seems to indicate that there is some kind of linkage. So does the U.S. have any independent evidence that they are linked?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent evidence here. Obviously, there’s an independent – there is an investigation going on on the ground. That’s the appropriate place for this to take place. We will continue to remain in touch with our counterparts from the Israeli – the Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. And again, clearly, we’re deeply concerned about the violence on the ground, and that’s why the Secretary issued a statement this morning.
QUESTION: And also, following up from a question that was asked yesterday about whether or not Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens, I think there was a question taken about how the U.S. knows that, what kind of evidence was being relied on for that case. I think it was said that that was mostly Israeli and some Palestinian evidence. Is there any independent U.S. evidence about Hamas’ involvement in that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, right now – and again, I think it’s important to note in all of these cases that any investigation is going on on the ground, it’s not – there’s not an independent United States investigation. We are in close touch with both Israeli and Palestinian officials. We have been for weeks, and that will certainly continue.
Right now there are many indications pointing to Hamas’ involvement. It’s also important to note that Hamas’ leadership publicly praised the kidnappings, and we’ve seen a pattern of events over the course of quite some time that we would also point to. But there’s an ongoing investigation; that has not been concluded. Clearly, many officials have spoken to their views of what happened here, but we will remain in touch with officials on the ground, and we’re not going to prejudge the outcome.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: But Jen, this is a criminal case. I mean, it’s okay for Hamas leader to welcome the killing or whatever they say publicly, but is this good enough evidence for them to link them directly to the killing?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’m – I just made very clear that we are going to let the investigation play itself out. I think there’s no question there are some patterns that we’ve seen in the past. There are many indications pointing to Hamas’ involvement, but we’re going – there’s an investigation that’s ongoing. It has not yet been concluded.
QUESTION: Are you aware that there is an organization called Jamaat Ansar as-Dawla al-Islamiya, which is a group that link itself to the Islamic state that declared responsibility yesterday, and Palestinian news agency ran the story that they – actually they are the one who kidnapped the three teens and killed them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of reports. That’s exactly why there’s an investigation ongoing. We’ll let that play itself out.
QUESTION: Okay. Just one last thing: You are aware that the Israelis demolished the house of one of the suspect of – they said they were involved in the killing. It was five-story house. The family lost their house. It’s a – do you see this as a collective punishment against the family? And in addition to that, they arrested the father and four of the brothers, and they already in Israeli jail.
MS. PSAKI: Well again, I think the Secretary’s statement this morning sent a very strong message from the United States that there has to be an alternative path forward, that violence is not the answer. And we’ve been in touch with both sides to convey that strongly, as well. There’s no question there are strong emotions on the ground. That’s understandable, given the circumstances, but we’re encouraging parties to continue to cooperate on security measures and continue the dialogue as well.
QUESTION: On the idea of collective punishment, I wanted to ask you about the notion of collective responsibility of governments, specifically of this Palestinian unity government. The Hamas/Fatah government is responsible for security and law enforcement in all the Palestinian territories. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s cooperation, as you know, on security front with the Israeli authorities as well. It depends on the part that you’re referring to.
QUESTION: Well, so when the unity government was announced, you said: “Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government. We will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government, and if needed, we will recalibrate our approach.” Is this a time to recalibrate? Are you re-evaluating? And if not, why not, given, obviously, this government has no control over the fact that dozens of rockets are falling on southern Israel, and not to mention these kidnappings?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point out as well that President Abbas has publicly condemned the kidnappings, and security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has remained and has continued. It remains the case that we will continue to assess – that’s been ongoing – our – the interim government based on its composition, its policies, and its actions. That’s ongoing. And we evaluate that on a regular basis, and nothing has changed in that regard.
QUESTION: But what does it mean for Hamas to have any part in this government and then turn around and fire – I mean, just now there was a red alert --
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to note here, Michael, that they don’t have – they’re not a part of the technocratic government. Obviously, the technocratic government is different from the reconciliation process. Obviously, everything’s linked. It’s all – but it’s different. They’re not a part of the technocratic government. We’ve seen President Abbas condemn the violence. Obviously, any incidents of violence we would condemn. We look at all of these circumstances as we evaluate our relationship moving forward.
QUESTION: And – but what are the technocrats doing? Do you have faith in the technocrats that are in this interim government that they have control over the situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question it’s a difficult circumstance on the ground. And over the long term, yes, of course, preventing and ending this violence is a primary objective. And President Abbas, who is head of the Palestinian Authority, an important part of the technocratic process here, has strongly condemned these actions. And we expect and hope that that will continue.
QUESTION: Last one from me. Do you have a response to the members of the Palestinian leadership and the PA that are saying that the killing of these three teens is a vast Israeli conspiracy or that in some way the Israelis were involved in the kidnapping and killing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say I think the Secretary has not only spoken publicly about this, but he’s been in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu and a range of other officials, and certainly we don’t see validity in that claim.