"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
1:16 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Now over the weekend, there was three teenage settlers kidnapped, and the Israelis have, in return, clamped down on the West Bank, arrested some 120 people. They killed two people, they injured like five others and so on. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a comment from Secretary Kerry --
MS. PSAKI: -- yesterday, and I would certainly point you to that. We are in close contact with both the Israelis and Palestinians. We’re offering assistance to try and find the kidnapped teenagers as swiftly as possible and return them unharmed to their families. We understand that President Abbas initiated a phone call to Prime Minister Netanyahu in which President Abbas condemned the crime of the kidnapping and committed to continued security cooperation to ensure that the Israeli teenagers are found and returned. And as you know, there’s an ongoing investigation about what exactly happened here.
QUESTION: Now, the Israelis maintain total security control, especially in the Hebron area. Did you speak with them about allowing, perhaps, Palestinian security, since they probably know the population a little better, to sort of coordinate with them on --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken with them about the importance of ongoing security cooperation, and we’ve seen that continue.
QUESTION: And did you call on the Israelis to sort of tone down their repression of the peaceful – the civilian population of the Palestinians in their pursuit to see where these guys are?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we’ve conveyed our concerns to both sides. But I would – there’s obviously a great deal of emotion in Israel given the fact that we have three missing teenagers, and the Secretary has also expressed his strong concern and condemnation of that action as well.
QUESTION: Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying that the kidnapping occurred as a result of the national unity government, and in a way, that you supported that national unity government. Do you have a comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we noted in our statement yesterday, there’s obviously an ongoing investigation into these circumstances. We’ve seen similar tactics taken in the past by Hamas, but I don’t want to jump to a conclusion at this point in time.
QUESTION: So does that mean that you do not at the moment agree or accept the Israeli claim that this was the work of Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: We’re going to let the investigation see itself through. We’ve seen similar tactics in the past, but I don’t have anything to update since yesterday.
QUESTION: Right. But that statement from yesterday also said that there were numerous signs that pointed to Hamas involvement.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Is that still correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, remains the case. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. But you are not convinced 100 percent that they are?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not conveying that. I’m conveying that we’re not, at this point, making a conclusion. We’re going to let the investigation see itself through.
QUESTION: Other than the capture of Sergeant Shalit back a long time ago during a military incursion, what other similar activities Hamas has done in kidnapping Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: I think what we’re talking about is a broad range of tactics, Said. I don’t think I need to outline those from here.
QUESTION: So the – one of his earlier questions was Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments about the – about support, countries that support the unity government. The tourism minister of Israel has actually said that U.S. – the U.S. decision to work with and to fund the new Palestinian government makes – actually encourages terrorism of the kind that they say that this kidnapping is. I’m assuming you would reject that. If that’s correct, why? Why are they wrong?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say a few things. Our position remains unchanged that Hamas is a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Based on what we know now, we do not believe that Hamas plays a role in the government. We clearly believe that adhering to the Quartet principles that were outlined – have been outlined for some time but were reaffirmed several weeks ago is an essential component, and any government entity that does not abide them we would not work with. So we will continue to evaluate. But I would certainly disagree with that comment.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, what – so you – one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s – I don’t want to say favorite, but he uses this expression a lot about the front office and the back office, kind of like the mob. There’s the front office that is all fine and acceptable, and then there’s the back office that really controls everything and is run off the books and incredibly illegal. You don’t have any concern that the new Palestinian government is being operated in this way?
MS. PSAKI: Based on what we know, we don’t believe Hamas plays a role in the government.
QUESTION: But is that in the front office or is – do you not even accept the possibility that there’s a back office that you – that is not a public face of the government?
MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, if we again were to find that an entity that we work with does not abide by the principles, we would re-evaluate our support and relationship.
QUESTION: Okay. And when you – on the kidnapees themselves, one of them is American or has American – holds an American passport. His family has spoken publicly about this. I believe they have publicly thanked the embassy in – the U.S. Embassy in Israel for whatever assistance is being offered. Can you confirm that he does hold an American passport?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot confirm at this point in time. I can confirm that our Consul General in Jerusalem as well as our Embassy in Tel Aviv have been in touch the family of one of the kidnapped boys.
QUESTION: Is that – and the reason that you can’t confirm is because he, who is in the hands of God knows who, hasn’t signed a Privacy Act waiver?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. And there are a range of ways that we can confirm in similar circumstances, but we don’t have those at this point in time.
QUESTION: For a minor, is it possible for a parent to sign a Privacy Act waiver?
MS. HARF: Technically it is possible, yes.
QUESTION: Do you know if the parents who have spoken publicly or the family who has spoken publicly have been given the opportunity to sign a Privacy Act waiver and declined? Or can’t you discuss that because they haven’t signed it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details to discuss at this point in time. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: If it is proven that Hamas actually gave the orders to do this, would you demand that Mahmoud Abbas dissolve this unity government?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead, Said, of where we are in the process.