US Secretary of State Kerry meets with Palestinian Chief Negotiator Erakat – USDoS press briefing/Non-UN document (excerpts)

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 4, 2014





1:27 p.m. EDT


QUESTION: Can I go to the Erekat meeting —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — with the Secretary? Can you – well, first, can you just tell us what it is that they talked about?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, and then I will go to some in the back.

QUESTION: Be as specific as possible.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, no – more specific than possible.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It was a long meeting.

MS. PSAKI: It was a long meeting. They met for several hours.

QUESTION: I know, I waited.

MS. PSAKI: You waited? Said. Sorry, I just want to get all the details here.

Well, they met last night. Faraj was also – Majid Faraj was also in the meeting, just so you’re all aware. They discussed the tensions in Jerusalem and the importance of maintaining calm, the fact that both sides need to do more on that front. The Secretary reiterated the United States opposition to unilateral steps by either party that attempt to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. They also discussed the latest developments in Gaza, next steps in reconstruction, and the possibilities on the way ahead for Middle East peace.

QUESTION: One – I asked you yesterday about the whole calm and incitement issue, and you said that Prime Minister Netanyahu had shown great leadership in having the site reopened and also calling for calm. There are some in Israel – actually many in Israel and their supporters here who are quite upset about this letter that President Abbas sent to the family of the man who was allegedly behind the shooting of the American citizen last week. In this letter, President Abbas says that the – this – the alleged shooter who was killed by the IDF is – was a martyr, assassinated by the terrorists of the Israeli occupation army, and he will go to heaven as a martyr defending the right of our people and our holy places. Is – do you have any reaction to that letter, that language? Is that – I mean, that does not appear to be non-inciteful?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you remember from last week, we obviously condemned the shooting of the U.S. citizen outside – in Jerusalem. We continue, as I just noted, to believe that both sides can do more to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and make clear that violence is unacceptable. That’s the standard we believe both sides should meet, and that is not – was not met at all by this letter.

QUESTION: Okay. So you – your – do you know if this came up with Mr. Erekat yesterday —

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check.

QUESTION: — this specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check, Matt, on that specific question.

QUESTION: And when you say that the standard was not met by this letter, that means that while you’re praising Prime Minister Netanyahu for his leadership in this, does that mean that you’re – that you find Abu Mazen – President Abbas – to be lacking in leadership on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t convey it as broadly as that. I’m speaking —

QUESTION: I mean, he signed the letter.

MS. PSAKI: I’m speaking specifically to the letter. I was speaking specifically to some comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made this weekend. But there are actions both sides have taken that have been increasing the rhetoric and increasing the tensions on the ground. And so that’s why both need to do more.

QUESTION: All right, well, let me just get – the overall – you’re disappointed by the letter in general. But specifically, do you believe that the Israeli – the IDF is made up of terrorists?

MS. PSAKI: No, we don’t.

QUESTION: No? And then, do you believe that someone who was accused – I don’t know if this – if it’s beyond – he was never convicted, obviously, but the Israelis certainly believed that he was responsible for the shooting of this American citizen. Do you believe that shooting someone, an Israeli – a rabbi at the Temple Mount – is defending the right of our – meaning Palestinian people – in holy places?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken to this. We condemned the action, and I think that speaks to how we view this – the incident.

QUESTION: All right. The brother of Mr. Glick has complained that the embassy and – or the consulate in Tel Aviv/Jerusalem has not been particularly helpful to them. Do you have any kind of response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I reference this, but it’s important to note that as – when these events happened, we put out – the Secretary himself spoke to this and condemned the actions. As you know, we have no higher priority than the protection of United States citizens living overseas, and we take our obligation very seriously. The U.S. consulate-general in Jerusalem made several attempts to contact Mr. Glick’s family, and only today, Tuesday, were able to make contact with one family member. Obviously, the Privacy Act prevents us from discussing too many details, but those are the facts, and certainly we will continue to provide all consular services that are available.

QUESTION: Has a consular officer visited Mr. Glick in the hospital?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details beyond —

QUESTION: Has he been given —

MS. PSAKI: — we have reached out for several days now.

QUESTION: Has he been given the opportunity to sign a Privacy Act waiver? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’d have to check on that, Matt.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the circumstances in which, Hijazi, the alleged shooter of Mr. Glick was killed? Are you aware of the circumstances?

MS. PSAKI: There’s obviously, as you know, an investigation into that specifically, Said, but —

QUESTION: Are you aware that he was actually taken to the roof and shot 20 times?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details, and I would caution you from making conclusions before the investigation is concluded.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware that Mr. Glick is one of the most intense provocateurs that keeps leading people into the Haram al-Sharif day after day? Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’re aware of his background, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a U.S. citizen who was killed, in this case, and we certainly condemn the action.

QUESTION: I want to ask about the meeting last night. I saw negotiator Erekat outside, and very briefly —

MS. PSAKI: Good last name. Get it?

QUESTION: — and he briefly told me that they are intent on pursuing the UN effort. So he apparently told that to Secretary Kerry and Mr. Frank Lowenstein, who was with him out there for a minute. So can you confirm that, that the Palestinians will go forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he conveyed that to you. I have nothing to contradict that. I would just convey that, as I mentioned earlier, the Secretary reiterated the position of the United States, which is opposition to unilateral steps by either party that attempt to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. Also, they didn’t get into a highly detailed discussion, just so you know, on the specifics, and as you know, nothing has been tabled at the UN. So this is a preliminary discussion, and obviously, having a back and forth and hearing from them is part of the reason to have a meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Palestinians are claiming today that they have an eighth country ready from the Security Council to support their effort. So they need one more country. Are you aware of that? Do you think they will be able to get nine members to support their effort?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction of that, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about the settlements. Obviously, an issue was – the issue was discussed and you addressed it yesterday in the briefing. Has there been any development since yesterday for this almost feverish settlement efforts in the last few days?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there’s been new developments since yesterday, no.

QUESTION: All right. And let me ask you just one final – are you aware of a letter that a number of generals, Israeli generals and officers and so on, signed calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu to show flexibility in this effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s an issue to ask the Israeli Government about, not the United States.

QUESTION: Sorry, the – your answer to the penultimate question on – have there been any developments on the construction or settlements, does that mean that the Administration is still contemplating what consequence Israel’s decision to go ahead with this will bring?

MS. PSAKI: It means our – the statements I made yesterday stand today and there’s nothing new to add to that.

QUESTION: Does that mean, Jen, that the Administration has decided that there will not be any consequence for doing what you said flies in the face of their commitment to —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to add for you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. And then I just I have one more. And this is kind of – I don’t know – it’s raised some attention, but it seems to be – it’s a wording issue. There are some people who had noted that you refer to the contested holy site in Jerusalem as Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, whereas in the past it has been referred to by your predecessors as Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif. Is there any reason for the placement order of what you call this bifurcated —

MS. PSAKI: There is not any reason and there is —

QUESTION: Okay, so it’s interchangeable in your —


QUESTION: — even though – the argument that the Israelis make is that they say the Temple Mount was there first. So it should go first.

MS. PSAKI: We use both names for a reason.

QUESTION: That’s their argument. But you were saying that there is no implication in terms of policy of this —

MS. PSAKI: There’s not implication. No.

QUESTION: — and you can flip them around —

MS. PSAKI: On the policy – no.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. Were there any meetings today between Mr. Lowenstein and Saeb Erekat that you’re —

MS. PSAKI: I can check with Mr. Lowenstein and see.

QUESTION: Okay. And my last question, I promise. He also said that the UN effort does not conflict in any way with any other efforts, just – such as direct negotiations. Do you agree with him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, our view remains that we would oppose any unilateral steps that attempt to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. And as I just noted as well, obviously the discussion of – the discussion last night was not highly detailed and there isn’t currently a proposal tabled at the UN. So there aren’t a lot of specifics out there.

QUESTION: It wasn’t highly detailed? It went on for —

MS. PSAKI: About this particular issue.

QUESTION: Oh, on this —

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, it was a multi-hour meeting. So certainly there was —

QUESTION: Hopefully they talked about something other than the weather.

MS. PSAKI: — a great deal of details about a range of issues.

QUESTION: So what was the main thrust of the discussions then, for — it was more than three hours?

MS. PSAKI: It was. It covered all of the issues that I just mentioned.

QUESTION: But did you mean that the Secretary didn’t ask Mr. Erekat for not going to the UN Security Council?

MS. PSAKI: He conveyed our well-known view on this particular issue.

QUESTION: But didn’t say do not do it?

MS. PSAKI: I think you are familiar with how we feel about this. Nothing has changed on that front. And obviously, we consider this a unilateral step.

QUESTION: He didn’t say it directly?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you quotes from the meeting, but I can —

QUESTION: Why not? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: — just convey that our view, which you’re all familiar with, is something the Secretary reiterated during the meeting.

QUESTION: When you say to the Palestinians that they should stop this effort, do you tell them either/or – if you go forward, we’re going to cut off aid?


MS. PSAKI: We conveyed that —

QUESTION: I mean, let me just ask you straight-out.

MS. PSAKI: — it contradicts their stated goal of a two-state solution and having their own state, an aspiration we support.

QUESTION: So you believe that the UN effort does conflict with any other efforts, such as direct negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: You need two parties to negotiate. It makes it more difficult.

QUESTION: Do you know, Jen, if the Secretary raised the issue with Mr. Erekat about today’s mid-term election and the potential for major change in Congress, that would not be particularly – if predictions hold true – not be particularly amenable to the Palestinian point of view? Do you know if that came up at all, whether or not it was – was it even noted?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there is more we can read out from the meeting.



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