INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
1:27 p.m. EST
QUESTION: The first one is: Did you – were you able to get an answer to the question about the funding for OneVoice --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- when the last payment of – for the grant that ended in November was made and how much it was for?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. The U.S. Government grant to OneVoice Israel was for $233,500. The duration of this grant, as I mentioned yesterday but just to reconfirm, was from September 23rd, 2013 through November 30th, 2014. No payment was made to OneVoice after November 2014.
QUESTION: And the project was, again, for what?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the project was to support efforts to support a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Despite the fact that you said that yesterday without the specific dollar amount and money, there was – another report emerged today that says that the State Department is funding an anti-Netanyahu lobbying campaign ahead of the Israeli election. Can you just say once and for all whether that – there is any shred of proof for that? Has your looking into it uncovered some kind of --
MS. PSAKI: It’s --
QUESTION: -- funding for this purpose?
MS. PSAKI: No. It’s an absolutely false report. The reports were stemming from inaccurate reporting – and a lack of reporting, perhaps I should say, on this grant that I’ve given you many details on.
QUESTION: -- some Israeli issues. The Israelis today cut off electricity or reduced the electricity to the Palestinian Authority areas, saying that they owe them about $450 million or something to that effect accumulated over the last few years, that of course coming at a time when the Palestinians claim that you have reduced their aid to them by a huge amount, more than 50 percent. Is there anything that you can do perhaps --
MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, Said, on the second piece, I think I’ve spoken to this several times in here about the fact that reports or claims that we have reduced our aid or changed our aid are not accurate. Our aid is continuing.
On the first piece, I have not seen those reports. I don’t have confirmation of them. I’m happy to talk to our team about it.
QUESTION: Well, the Israelis, I mean, they announced that the Palestinian Authority said yes, it’s true, they reduced their electricity. Is there something that you can do in this case, perhaps infuse the Palestinian Authority with some emergency funds to deal with this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we provide a range of funds to the Palestinians. That’s continued. I’ll talk to our team and see if this is an issue that we’re closely tracking.
QUESTION: Okay. And let me just quickly --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Israelis, of course, have decided to hold or freeze the tax monies that was going to be – so it seems ironic that on one hand, they’re saying there’s an unpaid bill, but on the other hand, they’re holding the money that they haven’t released to the Palestinians.
MS. PSAKI: Well, and we’ve talked about that in the past. Obviously, we remain engaged with both sides, but I don’t have any other update from here at this point in time.
QUESTION: Would you encourage the Israelis, in this case, to take that tax money and put it towards the money owed by the Palestinian Authority?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not encouraging anything at this moment.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: I want to look into more details.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I just have a couple more questions.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Both secretaries general of the Arab League and the United Nations spoke today about the situation in Gaza, and it was really deteriorating. I know you from this podium the other day --
MS. PSAKI: About the funding issue?
QUESTION: -- right, about the funding issue – you did call for – on the donors to go ahead and meet their obligations, but nothing has transpired in the last 48 hours, and the situation is really deteriorating, where the school year has not even started.
QUESTION: I mean, the school – the new semester.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I outlined the other day, we remain a steadfast supporter of UNRWA, we – which plays an indispensable role in the region, particularly in Gaza. We’ve provided over $100 million to UNRWA for their 2015 needs, including 38 million for emergency needs in Gaza and the West Bank. This is something that we continue to support, and we certainly understand the dire needs of the people living there at this difficult point in time.
QUESTION: And finally – I know that the Quartet met the other day, and they issued a statement calling for resumption of talks and so on. Is there anything that this building is – or the Secretary of State is doing, actually, to restart any kind of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think, as we’ve said many times, we continue to believe that a two-state solution that would come through negotiations is the only way to have peace – a lasting peace and lasting security in the region. As you know, that needs to be up to the parties to take the steps necessary. Israel is in an election season right now, so clearly, this isn’t a process that’s happening right now.
QUESTION: So you expect right after the Israeli election that there may be some sort of initiative?
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t making a prediction of that. We’ll leave that up to the leaders and the parties to determine.