US Spokesperson says It would be unfortunate if Israel implement settlement plans – USDoS press briefing/Non-UN document (excerpts)

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 3, 2014





12:57 p.m. EDT



MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You have seen the announcement this morning about the new construction in East Jerusalem. I presume that since you were talking last week about how bad this would be, you don’t approve. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is correct. We’ve, of course, seen the reports that you’re referencing. It would be unfortunate at this sensitive time, that after the unequivocal and unanimous position last week of the United States and others in the international community opposing construction in East Jerusalem were clearly vocalized, Israeli authorities would actively seek to move these plans forward. We continue to engage at the highest levels with the Israeli Government about these reports. We continue to make our position absolutely clear about how we view construction in East Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Why do you say it “would” be if they, in the face of all of the opposition, would go ahead with this, when they did?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were reports —

QUESTION: I mean, they made the announcement.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. There were reports about it. We haven’t received more clarity on the specifics.

QUESTION: And the fact that they decided to go ahead and make this announcement even though these – this construction won’t be done for probably years, what does that tell you about your influence with Israel right now?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t draw a conclusion it’s a reflection of that, Matt. Obviously, there are a range of cabinet officials in Israel. We all understand how this works politically in Israel. We still – it doesn’t mean we don’t voice our view, and many in the international community voice their views as well. But —

QUESTION: So you don’t think that this is a slap in your face, you think this is rather a domestic political issue for the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: I think I conveyed it would be a – it’s unfortunate, obviously. It would be unfortunate. It is unfortunate for this to move forward given not just the view of the United States, but the view of many in the international community.

QUESTION: But you made it – just let me pick up on that. You – well, particularly, you said the unequivocal and unanimous position of the United States. So you are kind of making it a little bit about you in terms of, like, despite your or the international community’s objections to it. I mean, what about Israel’s commitment to creating a climate under which a peace deal is – that this is conducive to a peace deal?

MS. PSAKI: Which is a goal they’ve stated. This flies in the face of that.

QUESTION: So I mean – right. So I mean (a) it seems as if – it seems as if you’re insinuating that they did it kind of despite your or to spite your objections.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t imply that, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you think that it has anything to do – like, the announcement, as Matt said, it’s not going to take place for several years.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think that this announcement right now has anything to do with any kind of tit-for-tat in terms of the tensions that we saw over the last week or two?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do analysis on that, Elise. But as you know, this isn’t the first announcement. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the same way about it despite the fact that there are many that have happened in the past over the last year.


QUESTION: So I mean, what – I mean, this continued – these continued settlement announcements, you say that that flies in the face of where it’s kind of against what Israel says that it wants. I mean, have you kind of made any conclusions about their commitment to restarting the peace process and working out a peace deal? It seems as if they’ve pretty much kind of given up.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, Elise, that obviously if they were going to restart a peace negotiation, we would be seeing actions and we’d be seeing efforts on their part to do that. And obviously, steps like this are contrary to that objective.

QUESTION: Jen, do you read anything in the timing, especially that the Secretary is meeting today with the Saeb Erekat to de-escalate the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially in Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a follow-up to the announcement, as you know, that they made last week. So it’s, I guess, a continuation of that announcement. The meeting today with Saeb Erekat is a follow-up to the Secretary’s meeting with President Abbas in Cairo. Obviously, we support a two-state solution, as you know, and certainly, they’ll talk about that. But we expect they’ll talk about a range of issues, including Middle East peace, including the situation in Gaza, and of course, on reducing tensions in Jerusalem.

QUESTION: News reports coming from the region saying that the Secretary will present a peace plan to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: There are no current plans to introduce a peace plan.

QUESTION: Why is that?

MS. PSAKI: Because it’s up to the parties, Matt.

QUESTION: Because the two sides have never been farther apart?

MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the parties to take steps. We know what the issues are. We know what the conditions would be. But it’s up to them. So we’re only going to take steps that we think would be productive.

QUESTION: So you’re willing to – the Administration is willing to – or is unwilling to try and force them back into talks like the Secretary did two years ago?

MS. PSAKI: We’re obviously having a range of discussions and conversations with them privately, but there are no plans to introduce a peace plan.

QUESTION: Well, how about this? If – even if it’s not introducing an actual peace plan, are – do you intend to try and push the two back together, even if they are – everything that they’re doing suggests that they’re unwilling to do so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if the two sides indicate they are interested in returning and there’s a willingness, then we’re willing to be a capable partner.

QUESTION: Are you —

MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think we’ve seen evidence that as of late.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary – okay. So the Secretary’s not holding his breath for that to happen.

MS. PSAKI: He’s not.


MS. PSAKI: But he continues to have private discussions with both sides. We know that a two-state solution is the only way to address these issues over the long term.

QUESTION: Okay. So is it fair to say then that the meeting this afternoon with Erekat is going to be focused primarily on how the – the Palestinians and the UN, their UN ambitions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they may talk about that. But obviously, they are – there are tensions in Jerusalem, which we’ve been talking about every day. There’s the situation in Gaza. It’s all related, as you know. So I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues.

QUESTION: Okay. So —

QUESTION: Jen, can I just go back? You said that you weren’t going to do anything that you felt was unproductive at the moment. So you believe it’d be unproductive to put forward a peace plan?

MS. PSAKI: If we felt it would be productive, we would do it. Obviously, we’re not – I just indicated we’re not – we have no plans to introduce a peace plan.

QUESTION: Why do you believe it’d be unproductive? I mean, there’s a certain train of thought that if you put forward a plan based on the intensive negotiations held over the nine, ten months that the peace process was still ongoing, that would actually sort of show both sides and the larger world global community how much progress you said was made. You do say that there was some progress that was made.

MS. PSAKI: Well, sure, Jo, and we certainly understand the appetite of the media, and you’re not alone in the media —

QUESTION: No, I mean (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: — of having an interest in that. But obviously, we put a great deal of thought on what we do and how we do it, and this – there’s no plans at this time.

QUESTION: So why do you believe it’d be unproductive to put forward —

MS. PSAKI: Because we believe that both parties need to make the choices and there need to be willing partners who want to have a negotiation at the table.

QUESTION: Jen, how —

QUESTION: I don’t – sorry, I don’t understand how that was —

MS. PSAKI: If we felt that was productive to doing that, we would do it. There’s no current plans to do it at this point in time.

QUESTION: How will the announcement affect the U.S. position at the Security Council in case the Palestinians —

MS. PSAKI: Which announcement? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The Israeli announcement of new buildings in the – in Jerusalem.

MS. PSAKI: How will it impact which piece of the —

QUESTION: The U.S. position. How will you react at the UN Security Council in case they presented a —

MS. PSAKI: The Palestinians present something?

QUESTION: Yes. Not the Palestinians, the Arab League or someone —

MS. PSAKI: The Arab League? I think I’m not going to predict what our view will be on a resolution or information that doesn’t yet exist. So we’ll see what happens and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Earlier, I think in response to one of Elise’s questions, you said that the announcement flies in the face of Israel’s stated commitment to a two-state solution to peace. And before, last week, you said something about not wanting – their actions suggest they don’t want to live in a peaceful society, I think, if I’m not —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said exactly that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well —

MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.

QUESTION: Let’s just stick with what you said right then about flies in the —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it your view, is the Administration’s view, that the Israelis are the only ones who are doing – who are doing things that fly in the face of stated commitments to peace and a two-state solution, or do you also find problematic anything that the Palestinians are doing at the current time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we believe that both sides can certainly do more. We appreciate – it’s all related, so I will just convey we appreciate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for responsibility and restraint in Jerusalem, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserving the historic status quo of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We strongly urge all parties to respect this call, which the Palestinian Authority described as a step in the right direction.

But we urge the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan to exercise decisive leadership and work cooperatively to lower tensions. And certainly there’s more that can be done.

QUESTION: So you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu, whatever description people in the Administration might have of him, has actually taken decisive – has shown decisive leadership in this specific instance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we think the call for responsibility —


MS. PSAKI: — and restraint was certainly a positive step, yes.

QUESTION: Have you seen similar from the Palestinian leadership?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Palestinians also described it as a step in the right direction or as an opening.

QUESTION: No, no. But has – well, describing something as a step in the right direction is not necessarily showing decisive leadership. Have the Palestinians done – have they done what you think is necessary in terms of trying to calm the —

MS. PSAKI: I think —

QUESTION: — calm the tensions or —

MS. PSAKI: — neither side has done everything that’s necessary. There’s more that needs to be done on both sides.

QUESTION: Do you —

QUESTION: Okay. Because last week, the spokesman for the Palestinians said that the immediate move after the shooting of the American citizen, the closing of it was an act of war, which doesn’t seem to be toning down the incitement. Now, obviously —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t believe that kind of rhetoric is helpful, no.

QUESTION: Have you seen any change in the Palestinian – in the rhetoric from the Palestinian side?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s been restated, but I don’t have any new analysis.

QUESTION: Okay. So I’ll stop. Okay, I’ll stop after this. But I just – is this something that the Secretary will be talking with Saeb Erekat about later this afternoon?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certain it’s part of their discussion.

QUESTION: The need —

MS. PSAKI: It’ll be part their discussion.

QUESTION: — to calm things down?

MS. PSAKI: To lower tension. Yes, absolutely.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: And do you — will the Secretary meet any Israeli official after the meeting with Erekat today?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, he has a range of meetings that are ongoing. He’s leaving tomorrow for China, as you know. So there’s not another meeting tonight, no.

QUESTION: And did he call any official in Israel in the —

MS. PSAKI: He has – he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu every couple of days.

QUESTION: Two things. Can you read out his latest calls either from today or from over the weekend? And then secondly, can you tell us whether you have any update into the investigations of the deaths of the two U.S. citizens in the region?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not going to – there’s not going to be a readout of every meeting he – of every call he does with the prime minister because he speaks with him every couple of days.

QUESTION: I’m not interested – I’m interested in whatever calls the Secretary —

MS. PSAKI: Sure. The calls he did this weekend, he spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. He spoke with Chinese State Councilor Yang. He spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He spoke with new EU High Representative Mogherini. Those are the main calls from the weekend. I’ll see if there are any more.

QUESTION: And then any – do you have any update on the results of the investigations into the deaths of the two U.S. citizens?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in all cases – and I spoke with some of our leadership on the ground or communicated with them this weekend about this – we continue to underscore in all of our discussions the need for the Israelis to complete these investigations in a rapid and thorough manner.

Regarding the killing of the 14-year-old American citizen, Israeli Government officials have told us that the IDF is doing a thorough investigation of the incident, will share results with us when it’s completed. We’re awaiting that information. They are well aware of the importance we attached there being a speedy and transparent investigation. I don’t have any other updates for you on the investigations.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: No, wait. I’ve got one more just on this. It has to do with some comments that Susan Rice allegedly made that were published, I guess yesterday or today, about the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. She reportedly told someone that she – that he has – she hasn’t seen him in over a year and that he’s apparently too busy, he hasn’t asked for a meeting, he’s running around with Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas.

Do you know – and if you don’t know, could you take the question – when the last time the Secretary or senior people in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau have met with Ambassador Dermer? I will ask them as well, but —

MS. PSAKI: With Ambassador Dermer?


MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know the Secretary was at his house a month ago for a holiday, I believe.

QUESTION: Right, yeah. But that’s —

MS. PSAKI: — I will check and see when the last time the Secretary did.

QUESTION: I mean a substantive policy discussion with the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure.



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