INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE/REGION
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
12:24 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: QUESTION: Can we move to the occupied West Bank?
MS. PSAKI: We can move to Israel and the --
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah. Today, Israel announced that they are building 430 new housing units. I wonder what is your position on this. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we have made clear our position on settlement activities many times. We believe that settlements are illegitimate and are counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome. We have deep concerns about these highly contentious construction announcements. They will have detrimental effects on the ground, inflame already heightened tensions with the Palestinians, and further isolate Israel internationally.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Now let me ask you something. Considering now there is no engagement whatsoever, at least between now and the Israeli elections and then a couple months --
MS. PSAKI: No engagement whatsoever, meaning what?
QUESTION: Between the American and the Palestinians and the Israelis on these issues --
MS. PSAKI: That’s not accurate.
QUESTION: -- or at least we’re not aware of any --
QUESTION: Okay. My point is the following.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Now over the interim of the next seven or eight weeks until the election, then thereafter – still forming the government and so on – what steps are you taking to sort of impress upon Israel that they ought to stop these activities, these provocations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, your statement’s inaccurate, so let’s just be clear about that. We remain very closely engaged with both officials from the Palestinian Authority as well as from Israel at many levels, and we – as you know, we have a large presence in our embassy and our consulate on the ground in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. So we discuss a range of issues. I think they’re certainly familiar with our views, and we reiterate those points privately just like we say them publicly.
QUESTION: But there is quite a bit of activity that has taken place in the last few weeks. I mean, land has been taken and so on, sometimes quietly, sometimes announced like today, and there seems to be no abating whatsoever in the process – no letting down.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, our view is that issuing these tenders does nothing to bolster Israel’s security, increase its prosperity, or further the cause of peace. That’s a point that we’re making clear to them on the ground privately as well.
QUESTION: And yesterday, former American envoy Dennis Ross and former member of the team David Makovsky – they gave a presentation at their think tank. And basically, Dennis Ross suggested that the time has come maybe for another exchange of letters of recognition. He cited the letters of recognition that were made on the 9th of September of 1993, and he said maybe the time has come. Is this an idea that you would support, whereby the Israelis say, “We will end the occupation,” and the Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re private citizens, and they’re certainly free to make their own comments, but I don’t have anything beyond that.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you – the premise of the first question you were asked was that these were new tenders, and my understanding is that, in fact, they are old.
MS. PSAKI: That’s --
QUESTION: They’re not new, but --
MS. PSAKI: Many of them are old, yes.
QUESTION: I suppose – or tell me, does that – I mean, it doesn’t change your position at all --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- but I mean, this does not seem to be something that is going to add to your existing concerns, because they were – you’ve already expressed your concern about these specific ones. Is that correct or am I wrong?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s correct.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m wondering if you have seen the or are aware of the Hezbollah leader’s speech today and if you have any response to that.
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen it. We can take a look at it and offer a comment on it.
QUESTION: And then Senator Cruz has written a letter to the State Department, to Secretary Kerry, asking several questions about something that’s come up in this briefing room over the course of the past two days – that is, the funding for west – I mean for OneVoice.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In the announcement that he was sending the letter, the opening – the headline of it is, “Has President Obama” – now I can’t read my writing again. I wrote it down. (Laughter.) “Has President Obama opened a political” – or “launched a political campaign against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?” Can you answer that question?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the short answer is no. I’m certain – and we all know the details because we’ve talked about them in here – I’m certain we will respond to Senator Cruz’s letter just like we do to any other letter we receive.
QUESTION: Another thing that’s come up is that apparently there was more than one grant.
MS. PSAKI: More than one grant over the last couple of years --
MS. PSAKI: -- or you think the 233 was more than one grant?
QUESTION: I don’t know if that was – I don’t know.
QUESTION: That’s why I’m asking. And this is mentioned in the letter; it’s one of the questions that he asks.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not certain that’s accurate, but we can certainly check if the 233 was a part of more than one grant or if there was a grant prior to it, obviously which wouldn’t be relevant to the current election, but --
QUESTION: Right, but I just want to make sure that we have the – that I understand whether this was – the 233 was two grants or one grant --
QUESTION: -- and there was another one that was earlier. Anyway, regardless of that, you are certain that there was nothing post-November --
QUESTION: -- 2014?
QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more about Israel – relating to Israel and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: And that is that apparently – well, earlier – actually, it wasn’t earlier this year; it was last year.
QUESTION: Last year, you had expressed concern about Israeli authorities apparently targeting the Khdeir family.
QUESTION: You’ll recall what I’m talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So it seems as though charges against one of them, at least, have been dropped. And I’m just wondering if you have followed up with the Israelis on this or if you have anything new to say on it.
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take it, and we can follow up with the team on the ground about that particular issue.
QUESTION: A follow-on on Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As you may know, Peace Now says that Israel has submitted plans for the construction of 93 new homes in Gilo.
QUESTION: Your comment – as I understand it, that’s separate from the 450.
QUESTION: Your comment was meant to apply to the 450, most of which are retendered?
QUESTION: Is it also --
MS. PSAKI: Not all, I think. Most, though.
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Was it also meant to apply to the – what Peace Now says are the plans for the construction of the 93 new homes in Gilo? Or is that not – was that not the subject?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t talked to our team about that specifically. We can certainly follow up with them on that. I assume yes.