"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest 4/4/2014
MR. EARNEST: Good afternoon, everybody. I have a couple of announcements before we get started.
The first is: The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Hussein Abu Khudair. We send our condolences to his family and to the Palestinian people. We note that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has called upon law enforcement authorities to work as quickly as possible to identify the perpetrators and motives behind this heinous act and we hope to swiftly see the guilty parties brought to justice.
We call on the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent an atmosphere of revenge and retribution. People who undertake acts of vengeance will only destabilize an already volatile and emotional situation.
Q Thanks. I want to go back to the situation in the Middle East. Is it the U.S.’s assessment that the death of this Palestinian teenager was the result of an act of revenge or retaliation for the deaths of the Israeli teens?
MR. EARNEST: That's a good question. This investigation is still ongoing, so I wouldn't want to get ahead of the investigation that's currently being conducted by law enforcement authorities over there. We are certainly interested in the details they uncover about who exactly is responsible for this despicable act.
Q But typically, you wouldn't -- I don't want to minimize this teenager’s death, but typically the U.S. wouldn't put out statements from the White House or Secretary Kerry on just an isolated murder of a teenager. So I'm wondering if you have an assessment that this is, in fact, related to what we've seen with the Israeli teens.
MR. EARNEST: We don't have an assessment yet because there is an ongoing investigation, so I wouldn't want to get ahead of it. But you heard me -- when asked about this yesterday, I expressed our concern that this is a very volatile situation that could devolve into a more violent and destabilizing environment. And that is something that we want to prevent. It certainly is in the interests of both sides, both the Palestinians and the Israelis, to prevent. It's in neither of their best interests.
I would note that there continues to be ongoing security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, and I certainly want to -- the United States certainly would encourage both sides to remain engaged in that cooperation. I would also point out that we’ve also seen statements from people like Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said earlier today that people should not take the law into their own hands. So we want to see both sides acting responsibly to this situation to ensure that it doesn’t spiral out of control and lead to even further tragic violence.
Q Has President Obama reached out to Netanyahu or Abbas? And does he have any plans to do that if he hasn’t already?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t have any calls to read out at this point, or any calls to give you an indication that we’re planning -- but as we consider calls like that, we always have a discussion about whether to read them out and if we’re in a position to do so, I’ll make sure that you guys are informed.
Q I just wanted to ask about Israel real quickly. Senator Rand Paul has been kind of pushing this bill that would eliminate aid to the Palestinian Authority after the killing of the three Israeli teenagers. He says their decision to form a government with Hamas means that the U.S. should cut off aid. So I’m wondering both what your reaction to the bill is and if that’s something that the President would veto, and less concretely, whether there’s been a reevaluation of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority in light of the killings and in light of their joining of a government with Hamas.
MR. EARNEST: Well, we have not, at this point, considered that. I haven’t seen Senator Paul’s legislation. What we are focused on in terms of the killing of these Israeli teenagers that we have condemned pretty clearly is urged both sides to not allow the situation to spiral into an even worse outbreak of violence; that there remains some ongoing coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government and we hope that that cooperation will continue.
When it comes to reconciliation between the Fatah party and Hamas, what we have done is we’ve drawn a distinction between the reconciliation between those two parties and the independent technocratic government that is headed by Prime Minister Abbas that does not currently include any members of Hamas. That’s an important distinction. We have said that we will assess the interim government based on its composition and its policies and its actions. And again, right now there are no Hamas members in that government.
And so we’re going to continue to urge both sides to cooperate, quite frankly, because we believe it’s in the interest of both sides to cooperate to try to calm tensions on both sides, even in the face of some terrible violence that we’ve already seen there.