"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
But to just start with a small little quibble, the very opening statement – the line says, “For more than 30 years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words of support… I walked the walk.”
Well, the Secretary was in the Senate for 28 years, so two --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: 1985 to 2013, so that’s nearly 30 years, okay? Not --
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s accurate to say more than 30 years in public service.
MS. PSAKI: Is accurate to say.
QUESTION: All right. Maybe that, okay. But granted, 28 years in the Senate is a long time, and certainly he has a – as he has said over and over, a 100 percent voting record in support of Israel. He says in this statement that if he could rewind the tape, go back in time to Friday at the Trilateral Commission, that he would’ve used a different word than apartheid to describe what Israel might possibly turn into if a peace deal isn’t reached and there’s no two-state solution. Can I ask you, being his spokesman – spokeswoman – what word would he have used?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it may not be that there’s one specific word, but the important point here is that was trying to describe – and if you look at the full context of his comments, he was describing his firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution. Now, he knows – and this is the reason he issued, we issued the statement on his behalf last night – that he has been around long enough to know the power of words can create a misimpression, even when that’s unintentional. And certainly, as he stated in the statement, he didn’t want to leave others to mischaracterize his record or mischaracterize his viewpoints.
QUESTION: Okay. But he says that he wouldn’t have used that word – “I would have chosen a different word.” Are you saying that there is no single word that he would’ve used to – it would be a combination of several words?
MS. PSAKI: Perhaps “words” may be a more accurate way of describing it, Matt.
QUESTION: But the statement also – it does not appear to be an apology at all. In fact, it seems to be a restatement of his concern that absent a peace deal, what is going to – what may emerge is a system – a state in Israel, a system with two classes of citizens. Is that correct? He still believes that that is a possibility?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly what he was referring to – and you’re right, what he was – his statement referred to the use of a specific word that is a loaded word with a great deal of history.
MS. PSAKI: And obviously, people --
QUESTION: But he’s expressed this --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish my point. Obviously, people can mischaracterize that and use it to distort his views and his positions.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if he believes, in – whether he uses the word or should’ve used the word “apartheid” or not, if he believes that that is the case, that a definition – obviously not the strict South African interpretation of the word, but another interpretation, another definition of the word, which is segregation, just basically keeping people apart – if he still believes that, why did he put the statement out? I mean, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, right? If he thinks that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, he --
QUESTION: If that’s his view, that Israel faces the potential – a potential future as a state that has two classes of citizens and there’s not a full-on democracy. If that’s what he believes, why doesn’t he – why does he – why is he taking back his word?
MS. PSAKI: He doesn’t disagree with the notion that many Israeli leaders have also stated – Justice Minister Livni, Prime Minister Netanyahu – many prime ministers in the past from many different political ilks have stated their concerns about a unitary state and a range of impacts that could have. He agrees with that. But he’s not naive about the games played in Washington. He – what we saw yesterday was many people use his comments and the – them out of context to distort his record and distort his viewpoints.
QUESTION: But it sounds like he’s only – and not apologizing, but saying that he regrets that the word was being used because he was caught or whatever word you want to use, or someone recorded him unbeknownst to him, using it. And isn’t it true that – first of all, isn’t it true that he has expressed this sentiment, if not the word “apartheid,” to Israeli leaders in his negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Which he repeated in his statement, that what he was trying to describe was his belief that it’s not possible to achieve two states living side by side in peace and security without a two-state solution. And yes, that is a sentiment he has described privately, he has described publicly. But again --
QUESTION: I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Can I make one more point here?
MS. PSAKI: Again, what he – yesterday, as we were making the decision about putting this statement out, there were several interpretations of his comments that were inconsistent with his record of more than 30 years in public service, the work he’s done to – work with the negotiators to bring about a peace process. It didn’t reflect his views; it didn’t reflect his record. And that’s why we put a statement out.
QUESTION: But it – I mean, I think Prime Minister Ehud Barak even said this --
MS. PSAKI: You’re right.
QUESTION: -- as recently as this week.
MS. PSAKI: It may be, but I didn’t list everybody, but you’re right. Many leaders from both sides --
QUESTION: And defense minister – sorry, former prime minister.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But it’s – just kind of goes to Matt’s point that if he believes that – this to be true, then instead of kind of saying I regret the statement, it cut --
MS. PSAKI: He didn’t say that. He said he --
QUESTION: Well, not that he regrets the choice of the word – of use --
MS. PSAKI: Of the specific word. Yes.
QUESTION: But --
MS. PSAKI: That’s an important point.
QUESTION: But why does he regret the choice of the word? Because it’s being interpreted by others, or because he doesn’t feel that way? Because it seems as if he clearly feels that way. He’s describing a situation which loosely is interpreted as an apartheid situation and he’s also pointing to others, and so it’s – that are saying it. And so it kind of seems as if he’s trying to distance himself from the criticism and not standing by exactly what he – how he believes it to be the case.
MS. PSAKI: No. I absolutely disagree with that. In his statement last night, he very clearly conveyed what the point he was making. He referred to other officials who have made a similar point.
MS. PSAKI: At the same time, we all know – you all work in words every single day – that certain words have – are interpreted in a certain way, have history behind them. So yes, he would have used a different word. The sentiment about the importance of reaching a two-state solution and the challenges of a unitary state – yes, he does completely agree with that.
QUESTION: So even though he put the statement out saying that perhaps he should have used another word, he still does think that Israel risks becoming an apartheid state in the future if there is no peace agreement and no two-state solution?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s very important, as we all know, that the use of the word, the way that people interpret the word – the power of words – is a major factor here.
QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s substitute – let’s --
QUESTION: But he’s just being upset about the way it was interpreted, not the way that he intended it to be perceived?
MS. PSAKI: Well, people – perception is important here, Elise. The fact that people were perceiving his comments as being indicative of any – of his opposition to or lack of support for Israel is not only absurd and inaccurate, that’s completely something we – he couldn’t let stand, we couldn’t let stand.
QUESTION: All right. Let’s do a little – let’s look at it this way. Let’s substitute the word apartheid for the letter X. Even though Secretary Kerry thinks that he perhaps used the wrong word in using the word X in describing what might possibly happen in the future --
MS. PSAKI: But the word is the vital issue here.
QUESTION: -- in Israel, he still believes X is a possible – is a possible future for Israel.
QUESTION: The definition of X.
MS. PSAKI: He still believes that, as many Israeli officials have stated, there would be challenges to a unitary state.
QUESTION: All right. Well, then --
MS. PSAKI: He still believes a two-state solution --
MS. PSAKI: -- is the right ending and the right approach here. Absolutely.
QUESTION: So in fact, he doesn’t – he’s not taking back his use – what he meant at all.
MS. PSAKI: He is – he – it clearly stated in his statement that he would have used a different word or a different phrase. He still believes that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, what is that different word or different phrase?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I – as is evidenced in his statement, Matt, he says he would have used a different way to describe --
QUESTION: He would have said --
MS. PSAKI: -- his belief that a two-state solution is the only way for two peoples to live side by side.
QUESTION: All right. So it’s just the invocation, he’d say – he’d invoke the specter of apartheid. That’s the – the specter of apartheid – doesn’t that – doesn’t hang over Israel’s potential future if there is no peace deal and those --
MS. PSAKI: He would not describe it that way if he were to rewind the tape again.
QUESTION: All right. The other thing he says – it’s “a word best left out of the debate here at home.”
QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that next time he goes to Israel he will feel free to use the word apartheid --
MS. PSAKI: It does not.
QUESTION: -- or in any other country?
MS. PSAKI: I think he’s acknowledging – he’s acknowledging in his statement the fact that many in Washington interpret the words, given the history, justifiably, with an added meaning.
QUESTION: Okay. So he --
MS. PSAKI: That was not his intention.
QUESTION: So it is the toxic – one might say toxic political environment in Washington that prevents him from speaking what he feels to be true? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: I think we all know that words not only have meaning, but they can be taken and interpreted in many ways, and it’s our interest to convey exactly what his view is --
MS. PSAKI: -- and what it’s not.
QUESTION: Okay. So it’s in your interest to clarify what you meant when you used the term. But if you come out to the briefing and you say certain words and we interpret it a certain way, you don’t come back the next day and say, “Oh, well, I regret using those choice of words. Let me say it a different way.”
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary of State and words he uses and the meaning of them is something different from that.
QUESTION: But Jen, can I actually clarify, does he regret using that word? I mean, he said – he doesn’t say that in his statement. He says if I --
MS. PSAKI: He said he would have used a different word, Jo.
QUESTION: -- if I could I’d rewind the tape.
MS. PSAKI: He would have used a different word or a different phrase.
QUESTION: Because I know there’s a lot of – on the TVs today, everybody’s saying – interpreting this as an apology. Is it an apology?
MS. PSAKI: He said he would have used a different word or a different term.
QUESTION: So it’s not an apology.
MS. PSAKI: I think I’m going to leave it as he described it.
QUESTION: So it’s not an – so he doesn’t regret using the word “apartheid”?
MS. PSAKI: By saying he would have used a different word, I think he’s saying he would have done it differently. So I’ll leave you to --
QUESTION: So is that an expression of his regret?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ll leave it in his words, Jo.
QUESTION: Yeah, it’s – but it’s not just the debate in Washington. You had Saeb Erekat, who, up until today, the 29th, just said that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not serious about the talks over the nine months, and he said that Netanyahu was consolidating the apartheid regime. What that is effectively – it’s Saeb Erekat using the word after it’s been given license because Secretary Kerry used it.
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s a bit of a jump to a conclusion there. I would note, as was in his statement, that Prime Minister Netanyahu, Justice Minister Livni, a range of officials from many political backgrounds have used the word in the past to describe – to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future.
MS. PSAKI: It’s been around quite a long time. Doesn’t mean he would use it again.
QUESTION: The use of this word --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- has been around for quite a long time.
QUESTION: Okay. Does he have a problem with Erekat using the word? Does he have a problem with others using the word?
MS. PSAKI: I think he addressed this in his statement when he said that many Israeli officials have used this in the past, but he – obviously, there’s not a place for it here.
QUESTION: So it’s a two --
QUESTION: You can finish.
QUESTION: Yeah – no. I just – you’re saying he didn’t want to leave others to mischaracterize his record --
QUESTION: -- and I just – isn’t it more important – more important than his record is mischaracterizing apartheid? I mean, why don’t – no one’s talking about the definition of apartheid here. Everyone’s talking about friction and nobody’s talking about the definition of this word when, as you say, that is what matters here.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – keep going. I’m sorry. I’m not sure what your question is.
QUESTION: My question is, like, why – you’re saying it’s historically loaded, you’re saying that it can be interpreted in ways that the Secretary didn’t want. Why is that the case? What is wrong with the definition of the word, and why doesn’t it apply? That’s the question, right?
MS. PSAKI: All I can speak to is what – how the Secretary would refer to what – how he sees events in the region, so I’m not sure I can give an analysis of whether anyone in the world can use the world or not.
QUESTION: Okay. Well why did he use that choice of the word to describe the – how does he feel that that word accurately reflects the dangers – we understand that he didn’t say that it is that way – the dangers or the risks of what Israel faces if they don’t?
MS. PSAKI: Again, he said that he would have – if he were to rewind the tape, he’d use a different word. And I think he described in great context in his statement last night.
QUESTION: Is it really – but is it really the word? I mean, like, he’s getting upset because his remarks were --
MS. PSAKI: He’s not getting upset. I think --
QUESTION: No. But what I’m saying is, like, he’s put out this statement because his remarks are – the word that he was used, that people find issue with. But it doesn’t sound like he has any different interpretation of the situation that Israel faces if there’s no peace deal. A unity state with – if you take out the word “apartheid” and you still have a unity state with second-class citizens as a – and a threat to a Jewish state.
MS. PSAKI: As he said many times before, Elise, and as he said in his statement last night, that’s why he believes that the only way in the long term to have two people living side-by-side in peace and security is a two-state solution.
QUESTION: So this is --
QUESTION: Jen, can I just rewind a little bit --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- back to the beginning. What was the primary purpose of the Secretary putting out his quite strongly worded statement last night? Was it to clarify the comments that he made at this Trilateral Commission or was it to, in some way, try to mollify and express some regret, even though he didn’t use the word, for the comments? What was the primary purpose?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, it was – obviously, he’s been around long enough to know that the power of words, and know that they can create a misimpression, even if it’s unintentional. And so, obviously, he’s not going to stand there, and we know the games of Washington, as does he – he’s been here more than 30 years in public service – allow others to distort or portray his words in a certain way --
QUESTION: So the primary purpose --
MS. PSAKI: -- that they were not intended.
QUESTION: The primary purpose was, then, to clarify his position on the current status of Israel?
MS. PSAKI: It was two purposes: to make clear what he meant and what he didn’t mean; what he believes and he doesn’t believe. And obviously, he does not want anyone to have the impression that he was intending to use a word that had as great of a history and as – clearly has such an impact on people and in a way that didn’t reflect his meaning.
QUESTION: But Jen, the problem here – the problem is, is that he still believes that it is a risk for Israel – that Israel risks turning into an apartheid state if there is no peace deal and no two-state solution. Is that – isn’t that correct?
MS. PSAKI: He would not describe it in that way, Matt --
QUESTION: Okay, fine. But the --
MS. PSAKI: -- if given another opportunity to do it.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then I guess we’ll have – does he intend to – is this case over, chapter closed? I mean, does he intend to address this again? Do you know?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so, no.
QUESTION: No. So he does not intend to apologize?
MS. PSAKI: He made very clear that he would have used different words.
QUESTION: Right. But he does not --
MS. PSAKI: I think everybody – as is evidenced today by people’s responses, I think people understand that he was conveying he would have done it differently.
QUESTION: This is – so he doesn’t intend to apologize?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t expect any more commentary on --
QUESTION: Okay. And do certain --
QUESTION: But the sentiment behind the – but take out the word. The sentiment that he expressed without using the apartheid word still stands?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that is what is causing so much confusion or tension. I think the use of the specific word is what has led to people to distort his views.
QUESTION: And not what it represents?
MS. PSAKI: Word and what it represents; both.
QUESTION: But the distortion here is, I think, that he – that people who are running around saying that he said it is an apartheid state now, is that not correct? Isn’t that the distortion you’re talking about?
QUESTION: He didn’t say that.
MS. PSAKI: He did not say that.
QUESTION: No, I know he didn’t say that, but that’s the distortion that you’re --
MS. PSAKI: There are some – it is expanded – it is beyond that, Matt. I think there’s a range of comments (inaudible).
QUESTION: So – okay. So this is the end of it, he doesn’t intend to apologize, he still feels the same way, he would – just wishes he would have rather used a different word? What --
MS. PSAKI: I think his comments last night made very clear that he would have done it a different way. There are many ways to say --
QUESTION: Does the – one member of the Senate, a man who I believe was in high school when the Secretary was elected to the Senate and has served for a total – a grand total of one year on the Hill called for the Secretary to resign. He said he’s not fit to be the nation’s top diplomat.
One, what does the Secretary make of the foreign policy wisdom of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas? And two, does he intend to resign?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, the Secretary continues to work quite hard. I’m not going to dignify his comments with a response, to be honest, but let me say one of the reasons, as was noted in his statement, that we put that out last night is because he’s not going to let any official from either political party distort his record, which is more than 30 years in the Senate, walking the walk, as he said in his statement last night. And --
QUESTION: But not – nearly 30 years in the Senate?
MS. PSAKI: More than 30 years in public service, how’s that?
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: But I just – I mean, if he’s been working this issue for his 29 years in the Senate and he’s clearly put --
MS. PSAKI: Twenty-nine-plus.
QUESTION: Wasn’t it twenty --
MS. PSAKI: More than 30 years in public service.
QUESTION: He is the one that’s been using the – he has not said 28 and change. He’s said 29, so I’m going to go with 29.
QUESTION: If he’s been working this for all his years in the Senate, and clearly, he’s put a lot of effort into the peace process and prides himself on someone who can talk to the Israelis and Palestinians – and he’s said himself candidly, telling it like it is, calling them out – then I don’t understand why he is bucking under pressure from the Republicans or the pro-Israel lobby groups or whoever it is, if he feels a certain way?
MS. PSAKI: That’s absolutely not what’s happening here. He understands words can create a misimpression, and that’s why he wanted to convey clearly what he stands for and what he doesn’t, and he’s not going to allow other people to do that on his behalf.
QUESTION: Well, but by doing what he did, he’s not clear about what he stands for and what he doesn’t.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the full statement where he says, “This is what I was saying, this is what I was talking about.”
QUESTION: Jen, a year ago – or no, sorry, in July when Secretary Kerry announced the resumption of the talks after a three-year hiatus with the Israeli and Palestinians in this building --
QUESTION: -- he set a deadline of today for the – a peace – a full peace treaty which we know has obviously not been achieved. And I wonder if he really felt nine months ago that we’d be sitting in this room discussing the use of words and not having a peace treaty. And I really wondered whether he feels that it’s a lost opportunity and that this is a – that the talks have failed around his head.
MS. PSAKI: No. He – it is true, as you said, that the original negotiating period was set to run until April 29th, today. There’s nothing special about that date now given that Israel suspended the negotiations last week after the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation plan was announced – again, a statement, nothing more. We have reached a point – he continues to feel this way – where a pause is necessary. And we’re in a holding period where parties will figure out what they want to do next. We continue to strongly encourage both sides not to take escalatory steps. It remains in their – it remains up to the parties to determine whether there is a process forward.
But he continues to believe, as does the President of the United States, that a peace agreement and a peace process is in the benefit of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people and the American people. So we’ll continue to stay in touch with both sides and see what decisions they make.
QUESTION: Do you see --
QUESTION: I was going to say is he willing to launch back into this with the same amount of effort and hard work and persistence that he’s put in over the last nine months?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, if the parties make decisions that are necessary, certainly.
QUESTION: Do you think they will make those decisions?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t make that prediction. We’ll see what they do. They have – we have seen some steps. The Israelis released most of the Palestinian revenues. But again, obviously, more needs to be done.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate Martin Indyk and his team to continue to go out there and meet with the parties separately, or are you – when he says that it’s time for a pause, do you mean just kind of pause – wholesale pause?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – I don’t have any predictions of their travel or return to the region. I think at this point – and obviously, we evaluate day by day – Ambassador Shapiro and CG Ratney are in touch with both parties and they’re continuing to do the work on the ground.
QUESTION: Is there any consideration to the fact – and I know that the Secretary, from day one, kind of came in and said I want to dive in and do this – that perhaps it was a little bit too precipitous and not taking into consideration the situation on the ground with both parties, whether it’s the Israelis’ leadership or the Israeli political climate, or the lack of Palestinian reconciliation or political climate within the Palestinians, that maybe the time just wasn’t right?
MS. PSAKI: I would say his view – I mean, he – remember he’s known these leaders for decades. He’s known the politics in the region for decades. And he engaged in this effort because he believes that now is the time to pursue this process. We’ll, of course, see if the sides are willing to make choices. But he feels that – continues to feel that this period now is when they need to move things forward.
QUESTION: What do you think you would have done differently? How do you think you could have avoided this period, this stillbirth?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to look into a rearview mirror. Obviously, as you look at the process moving forward, what we know is that, as Elise said, these are difficult choices to make. There’s a lot of history here. Those are all things we knew. So again, as he said, you can lead a horse or horses to water; you can’t make them drink. We knew that would be the case from the beginning. I don’t have any analysis to lay out for you here today on what we would do differently.
QUESTION: Just as a follow-up to that --
QUESTION: -- the UN envoy for the Middle East, in his speech today, said that there needed to be – there was a pause, and getting back to talks should build on the U.S. efforts of the past nine months, but the two parties should not rush back to talks with some sort of unspecified or unrealistic timeline, is how he put it, and without a clear political horizon, which sound a little bit like implicit criticisms of Washington’s approach. Is this period, this pause at least going to be used to look at the way that Washington has been dealing with the peace talks, maybe change the strategies or change approaches? Is there any critique going on after this collapse?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t view the comments that way. I think those comments reflect our view as well, that the parties need to make their own tough choices and determine themselves whether they are willing to take the steps necessary to have an environment conducive to peace. We agree with that notion.
QUESTION: Just one other question with regards to that. He said that the Secretary General, given President Abbas’s assurances that the new unity government would have the same terms of reference as his government on all these issues you’ve been talking about. Given that the unity government – he saw it as an opportunity and not a threat, and that it was not a contradiction to peaceful negotiations, is that something you disagree with?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it that way. We’ve said that there have been principles that have long been principles we have stated from the United States. President Abbas restated those over the weekend and has many times in the past. But again, they’ve announced plans for reconciliation several times, even in recent years. Those haven’t followed through. And obviously, the creation of the government and the details of it are vitally important here.
QUESTION: But – sorry, does that statement by the Secretary General reflect your position more than Israel’s approach?
MS. PSAKI: Our position is what I’ve stated. I’m not going to do analysis of the Secretary General’s statement.
QUESTION: Jen, over the nine months, what, if anything, was accomplished? Because certainly trust was not built. They already knew the issues that they would have to make sacrifices on. So what concretely was accomplished? Also, what’s the point in drawing deadlines and setting a date if it’s ultimately not marked by anything at the end, as --
MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first question, over the past nine months the parties did make progress on a range of issues. They talked about all the core issues. They remained at the table. But we’re not going to outline that here because we don’t see this as case closed. And we continue to believe that laying specifics out from closed door negotiations isn’t in the benefit of anyone.
In terms of timelines – look, from the beginning, the timeline was laid out to keep the parties at the table for that amount of time. Yes, we’re here today and clearly steps were taken last week that mean today no longer has the meaning it did several months ago. That remains the case. But in any process, timelines and deadlines either keep people at the table, they push action forward, and those can still be very effective.
QUESTION: There’s just one more. There was a meeting of the Judea and Samaria Higher Planning Council, which chooses whether or not to advance settlement plans, that the prime minister actually canceled for Wednesday. And the reason Israeli officials gave us, The Jerusalem Post, was we’re, quote, making great efforts to convince the world that Abbas is a peace rejectionist who embraces Hamas, and a construction announcement at this time would not be beneficial. That’s not exactly a quote, but is this the right reason to delay construction? Do you praise the cancelation of settlement announcement plans and whatnot?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Michael, I’d first say, as you know, our position is longstanding, that we don’t recognize the legitimacy of settlements. There’s no doubt that the large number of settlement announcements made during the course of negotiations caused serious problems for the negotiations. And obviously, since we don’t recognize them and we know where the Palestinians stand, if those were to cease, certainly that would be a good step. But I’m not going to overstate the benefit of the delay of a meeting.
QUESTION: Hold on. Go ahead. Sorry, I didn’t mean --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I didn’t mean to interrupt.
MS. PSAKI: No, go ahead, Michael.
QUESTION: I had nothing. I was listening.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well – sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sorry. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, I remember you saying – you said that despite the fact that you’re – that you haven’t gotten to your goal, you made – they made progress on all the issues. And – but you won’t tell us what progress that was because that would be unhelpful for whenever, if ever, the peace talks resume again.
QUESTION: I don’t understand how you can even make that claim, frankly, with a straight face, because – I think that it’s possibly – it is – the situation on both sides is demonstrably worse today than it was back last July when this process began. The Palestinians have gone to the UN seeking membership or seeking to join these – all these conventions. They’ve invited Hamas to join a unity government, which you think is – you and the Israelis think is a bad idea. On the Israeli side, you just --
MS. PSAKI: That’s not our position.
QUESTION: Oh, I --
QUESTION: You think – what? What’s not your position?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they can pursue a reconciliation process if they --
QUESTION: Well, right. But because --
MS. PSAKI: -- if the government abides by certain principles.
QUESTION: All right. But because they have invited Hamas to join them and because there is this reconciliation government, the Israelis suspended the – what was left of the peace talks. And as you just pointed out, during the course of these nine months of negotiations, there were a large number of settlements built. So there – how can you point to any progress having been made when the situation is – there are more settlements now or more announced, more plans for more settlements; the Palestinians have gone to the UN, which is precisely what they said they wouldn’t do and what the Israelis didn’t want them to do and you didn’t want them to do; they’ve invited Hamas into the government; and now – and the peace talks are no more?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, what I’m referring to is – obviously, the reason we have supported the peace process and the Secretary has worked so hard on it from the beginning is because agreement on the core issues will – would hopefully prevent things like settlements in areas that are occupied and all of these events that have been so troubling for decades. So --
QUESTION: Right. But none of that has happened, and there are actually more – there’s more bad stuff now --
QUESTION: During the course of --
QUESTION: -- than there was before the whole peace process began.
MS. PSAKI: They have not reached a final status agreement.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that.
MS. PSAKI: What I’m referring to is progress in talks about the core issues.
QUESTION: But how --
QUESTION: But what good is this alleged progress in talks if the – if nine months later the situation, by every single quantifiable count, is worse than how it – than when it began nine months ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we’ve made any secret of our belief that both sides have taken unhelpful steps, Matt. We’ve stated that very frequently. At the same time, during private negotiations, they’ve made – they’ve dug into and made progress on the core issues where there needs to be agreement on in order to – in order for the two sides to be living side by side.
QUESTION: But what about – what does it say about the good faith of the parties? You continually say, and the Secretary says, they have told me that they want to move forward, that they want a peace deal, that they believe in peace. When their actions belie that, what does it say about the good faith of the parties to actually reach an agreement, and are they just wasting his time, if their actions on the ground completely indicate otherwise?
MS. PSAKI: It says that there are decades of history on these issues. And we never expected that this would be a smooth road. And that’s – the Secretary has not a moment of regret about every ounce of time he’s spent on this effort.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I think – I mean, that’s, like, a really good, like, slogan – like, “We knew that this was going to be hard.” But the Secretary is going there, spending a considerable amount of time, political will, energy that – yes, he’s working on other foreign policy issues, but clearly has made this a priority. So it’s taking time away from things he could be doing other things with when – and he’s giving this his all – where the parties themselves are taking actions that are completely jeopardizing the actual progress that he’s trying to make in the room.
MS. PSAKI: Which --
QUESTION: So, I mean, he’s got to be really wary about diving back into a process in which the parties are actually working against him.
MS. PSAKI: Again, Elise, the way he feels is obviously we’re at a point where we need a pause. The parties have taken unhelpful steps. They need to determine whether there’s a path forward. But because this has been such an intractable issue and because it’s an issue where the benefits of peace would be so great, that’s why he has been so invested in it.
QUESTION: Are you concerned --
MS. PSAKI: It hasn’t taken away. At the same point – at the same time, he’s worked on Syria, he’s worked on Iran, he’s worked on Ukraine, he’s worked on South Sudan --
QUESTION: I’m not saying that he’s not working on other things.
MS. PSAKI: -- China, North Korea.
QUESTION: I’m saying that he’s spent a lot of time and energy on this particular issue with very little return on his investment.
MS. PSAKI: Ask people in the region what the benefits of the process would be. He didn’t come into it with some sure bet that we would resolve things in the exact set-out timeline.
QUESTION: You’ve – in recent times after the kind of breakdown or collapse, at least temporarily, of a peace process, you’ve seen a lot of violence in the region, you saw the Intifada after Camp David. Are you concerned that there could be renewal of violence on the ground as a result of the collapse of the talks?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we watch things very closely, but that’s not something I’m making a prediction of.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. You just said that the Secretary doesn’t regret a moment; he has not a moment of regret about every ounce of effort?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: That’s how he generally feels?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: No regrets about the last – what has happened over the last nine months?
MS. PSAKI: No regrets about the time he spent investing in this process. He still continues to believe --
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: And can I just wind you back to – sorry, Matt – you corrected Matt just now and said that it’s not your position that there shouldn’t be Palestinian reconciliation.
QUESTION: That is actually different from what you said from the podium last week that you wouldn’t --
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s not. I stated last week --
QUESTION: You said it was a hypothetical because Hamas hasn’t met --
MS. PSAKI: I stated last week that our position is if they meet – if a unity government accepts certain principles, then it hasn’t been our position to oppose that, no.
QUESTION: But in --
MS. PSAKI: I stated that week.
QUESTION: But in Lebanon, there are members of Hezbollah that don’t explicitly endorse everything that the unity government embraces, yet you take the word of the prime minister. Whether it’s Prime Minister Siniora, whether it’s Prime Minister Mikati, over the years you have looked to the prime minister and the policies he sets as indicative of the policies of the government. So why is there a double standard with the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: Every country is different, and our policies are different as it relates to different organizations, as you know.
QUESTION: But I don’t think it’s any different. I think Hezbollah is equally as committed to the destruction of Israel that Hamas is. And why is what the Lebanese prime minister is able to get his government to make a policy different than what Abbas? Do you have less confidence in Prime Minister Abbas to run his government than --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not stating that. I’m not going to peel back the curtain any further.
QUESTION: So on – sorry, just to follow on the reconciliation efforts --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm,
QUESTION: The reason I asked is because there was a report in Haaretz today that Phil Gordon from the White House was briefing some Jewish leaders on Friday, and he said that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, is that generally your position, the White House’s position or the Administration’s position?
MS. PSAKI: It’s long been our position that if they abide by these principles – but remember they’ve tried this many times. They haven’t indicated a desire to abide by the principles – Hamas, that is. President Abbas has consistently had the position and stated it publicly.
QUESTION: But the State Department is well aware of the charter of Hamas. If Hamas recognizes Israel, it’s no longer Hamas. Do you have any indication whatsoever that they are any closer to that, given Zahar made statements just about an hour ago saying that Hamas had no intention to do this?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just stated they haven’t shown an indication.
MS. PSAKI: But our principles have been the same about what a unity government would need to abide by.
QUESTION: And Netanyahu was saying over the weekend that if somehow a unity government were to form with all of the cabinet members recognizing the three principles and respecting the three principles, and Hamas is in some sort of backroom working with the government, he would not work with that government, he would not negotiate with that government. What’s your position on that sort of dynamic?
MS. PSAKI: They are going to make the choices they make. Obviously, the timing of this last week --
QUESTION: Okay. But will you recognize – okay.
MS. PSAKI: -- was one of the issues that we pointed to. And we’ll look and see what the formation of the government actually entails.
QUESTION: Jen, outside of the progress which you say they’ve made in the closed-door talks, can you point to one tangible, on-the-ground benefit that has resulted from the last nine months of negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think, obviously, having both sides talk about these tough issues and be at the table together and address core issues that need to be reconciled in order to have two parties living side by side, we do see as a benefit.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to lay out what happened behind closed doors, as you know. But again, that’s where the progress was made.
QUESTION: But if I’m an Israeli or I’m a Palestinian, and today I look at my situation on the – as it exists on the ground, what would you tell me is the benefit to having had – to these last nine months of negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: I would tell you that the benefit is talking about what the endgame would be for a peace process where two parties are living side by side in peace and security.
QUESTION: Yeah. But the talks are over --
QUESTION: But weren’t there supposed to be confidence-building measures over the last kind of nine months that were supposed to create a climate for better peace? And I mean --
MS. PSAKI: There were steps that the parties did take throughout the process --
QUESTION: So there were --
MS. PSAKI: -- whether it was releasing prisoners or not going to the UN.
QUESTION: Okay. So that’s the --
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, those things --
QUESTION: Right. They – well, some of them happened.
QUESTION: So the benefit to the Palestinians is that they got some of their prisoners released? Not all of them, but is that – that is one of them?
MS. PSAKI: One of the – I still --
QUESTION: What’s Israel’s benefit?
MS. PSAKI: -- one of the – Matt, but again --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, there’s something you could point to --
MS. PSAKI: -- the Israeli and the Palestinian people believe there should be a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Right, but --
MS. PSAKI: Whether the leaders can get to that point is a separate question.
QUESTION: Right, but when I asked the question could you show us one – tell us one benefit – point to one, tangible benefit, I mean, that’s one that you could have – that there are now Palestinian prisoners who had been in jail who are back with their families, right?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a larger goal and larger benefit.
QUESTION: Is that (inaudible)? All right.
MS. PSAKI: That’s what – the point I was making.
QUESTION: So in the – more broadly, has the Secretary spoken to anyone in Israel or among the Palestinian leadership in the last – I don’t know – since Friday that you’re – since this infamous Trilateral Commission meeting? Has he spoken to anyone either about the end of the peace process or about the apartheid comments?
MS. PSAKI: He has not in the last couple of days. But remember, our negotiating team and our ambassador and consul general have been in very close touch with both parties.
QUESTION: Do you know if your ambassador and the consul general have been in touch with their counterparts in Israel and the PA about the apartheid comments?
MS. PSAKI: They’re in touch on a daily basis about a range of things, so yes, that’s certainly – they’ve been in touch.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing – and it has to do with the comment, but that’s it for me on this whole subject --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and that is: Are you surprised at all that this out or uproar seems – doesn’t seem to have caught on in Israel itself with the exception – unless that’s changed in the last several hours – with the exception of one cabinet minister? And what do you think – if you’re not surprised, what do you think it says that this uproar happened, this furor happened here in Washington, rather than in the country that is actually directly impacted by this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not a surprise, because there are a range of leaders from both political – a range of political backgrounds who’ve made similar comments to what the Secretary made --
QUESTION: In Israel.
MS. PSAKI: -- in Israel. So not a surprise there. It’s something that has been reported and heard frequently. In terms of why it happened here, I think, again, this speaks to the fact the Secretary has been in Washington for more than 30 years. He’s familiar with the games that are played in Washington and attempts by some to distort his record and his words. And that’s why he wanted to speak for himself.
QUESTION: And can I just ask if – does he plan to change his view of attending and/or speaking at allegedly off-the-record events because of what happened here?
MS. PSAKI: He does not. He thinks there’s valuable discussions that can happen, and there were a range of leaders there who he had a great conversation with.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: Just one.
MS. PSAKI: To – we do – okay. One more, and then we’ll go to you, Elise.
Go ahead, Michael.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any fear that the boycott divestment and sanction movement – the movement to delegitimize Israel will gain steam after the failure of the peace talks? And I will just add that the BDS movement is a big fan of the word “apartheid” and the context of it.
MS. PSAKI: You know his view and what an opponent he’s been, and he will continue to make that view clear.
One on the peace process?
QUESTION: So on a similar line as what Matt was asking before, I mean, it seems like the reaction, which you’ve talked about at length, has been just very, very, very shrill. And so, I mean, is it of concern to you that this – when this kind of thing happens – and I mean, Senator Cruz was not the only one calling for Secretary Kerry to resign. So is it worrisome that this represents a narrow scope of public discourse on this issue? And when officials can’t speak with candor without risking becoming a political punching bag, does that endanger the prospects of having open discussions and having – sort of foraging a quicker path to a peace deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly hope not. And obviously, when you have someone like Secretary Kerry, who has more than – a record of more than 30 years standing by Israel, walking the walk, not just talking the talk – and anyone who knows him would never question his commitment to that – it is concerning when people do take comments out of context or take comments as meaning something they don’t.
QUESTION: But just to kind of wrap those – Matt’s point and this gentleman’s point – and that’s it for me.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I think we should change the subject. But if it’s only in Washington and it’s these political kind of partisan – and he’s been in Washington 13 years – 30 years – and he knows how the game is played and it’s really not causing a fervor in Washington --
QUESTION: In Israel – why did he feel the need to kind of put out a statement to mollify his critics in Washington?
MS. PSAKI: Because he’s not going to let people speak for him and what his views are.
QUESTION: Who cares what they say though? I mean, if the Israelis aren’t upset about it, and he feels that they know what he’s talking about, and it’s not really causing that much of a consternation there, why is he letting his critics in Washington kind of make a big issue out of it?
MS. PSAKI: Because he and we are not going to let anyone, from any political party, distort his viewpoint and his record. And that’s why we put out the statement.
QUESTION: You said that no one who knows him would say this, but are you saying that Barbara Boxer does not know John Kerry?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – obviously, I think his record speaks for itself, and --
QUESTION: Mitch McConnell doesn’t – people that he served for more than decades within the – not Senator Cruz, of course, who was not there, but Senator Boxer, Senator McConnell, they don’t know the Secretary?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, I think his record and his --
QUESTION: You’re --
MS. PSAKI: -- work speaks for itself, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, right. But you’re saying that anybody who knows him would – could not make this – would be willfully misrepresenting his comments if they said that he was saying something that was outrageous and unfair and ridiculous. Correct?
MS. PSAKI: Anyone should know – anyone who knows him should know his record and what he represents.
QUESTION: Okay. So Senator Boxer then is --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to individuals who have put comments out.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:21 p.m.)
DPB # 76