Daily Press Briefing
June 5, 2014
- Palestinians / Interim Government
- Settlement Announcements
- Suspension of Peace Talks
1:44 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Your ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, gave a radio interview pushing back against Israeli criticism of your decision to work with the Palestinian unity government. He said that Israel has come to the same practical conclusion that it’s best to work with the unity government. He said that Israel transferred aid the very same day that the unity government was announced, or rather when it was —
MS. HARF: Formed.
QUESTION: — formed. Do you agree that the criticism is hypocritical?
MS. HARF: I agree with whatever Ambassador Shapiro said, as I pretty much always do. But no – I mean, what you just read to me – I wouldn’t use the “hypocritical” comment. I’m not sure he did. But what you read to me from his interview I would agree with. And we’ve been very clear that we will judge this new technocratic government by its actions – that again, their primary goal is to set up elections, and that we will continue – excuse me – looking at this very closely going forward.
QUESTION: One more. Do you have anything to say on the – any response to the settlement announcement?
MS. HARF: I do. We are deeply disappointed that – with today’s settlement announcements, as we have consistently said these actions are unhelpful and counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome. Our position is longstanding and unchanged. As you know, we continue to view settlements as illegitimate and urge both parties to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension and undercut the efforts to find a path forward to a two-state solution. It is very difficult to understand how these settlements contribute to peace.
MS. HARF: Yep. Jo.
QUESTION: On the – still on this.
MS. HARF: And then I’ll – and then I’m coming back to you. Go ahead. Yep.
QUESTION: Still on the settlements. Your counterparts in the EU have actually gone a step further and called on Israel to reverse this decision. Would you support that?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to use those words. I think I’ll stick with: We’re deeply disappointed; again, difficult to understand how these contribute to peace, and would urge both sides to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension.
QUESTION: And Hanan Ashrawi, who’s a member of the PLO, as I’m sure you’re aware, has said that the Palestinians are actually going to seek UN intervention on this. Is that a move that you would support?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. I don’t have anything else, I think, probably to comment on than what I just said.
QUESTION: Because saying that you’re deeply disappointed, it’s a fair enough reaction, but it’s what you say after every single announcement of settlements.
MS. HARF: We are nothing if not consistent.
QUESTION: How can you move forward beyond just words and actions and actually try and encourage the Israelis not to do this?
MS. HARF: We have the conversation privately with the Israeli Government on this issue all the time and do believe that neither side should take these kind of unhelpful steps. So if there’s more to share, I’m happy to. I just don’t have anything further on this issue.
I’m going back —
QUESTION: A question on settlements still.
MS. HARF: Yes, and then I’m going to —
QUESTION: You just said that the State Department had been consistent on the issue of settlements.
MS. HARF: Longstanding and unchanged.
QUESTION: Yeah. And – but it seems it’s not actually fruitful in any way because settlements keep on coming. Is it time to change course on this consistency and policy that seems to be unsuccessful so far?
MS. HARF: Well, we stand up very clearly and say what we believe, and we’re not going to stop saying what we believe. We say it privately to the Israelis as well. So on this issue, again, we will continue working with them. We will continue engaging on the topic and pushing it with them publicly and privately.
QUESTION: My question is: Can you —
MS. HARF: Are we changing our policy?
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Not changing your policy. But can you show me, like – just give me one example where these talks and this consistency actually helped in any way over the issue of the settlements?
MS. HARF: Well, broadly speaking, we know we have a lot more work to do. Obviously we know where the talks are at the moment; they’re suspended, they’re not happening. So this is part of a larger conversation, quite frankly, about how we move the peace process forward, if that’s possible now, and what each side can do to move that forward. So it’s part of a much broader conversation that we’re having with both sides.
QUESTION: But you don’t have, like, specific case where your engagement with the Israelis, where – was —
MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything further for you on this topic.
QUESTION: So would you blame, like, Abbas if he went – like now, after like the Israeli announcement that they’re going to build 1,500 or whatever, like, settlements – would you blame him if goes, like, to the international organizations and just to admit Palestine in them? I mean, you say that you are disappointed —
MS. HARF: Deeply.
QUESTION: — by the Israelis, but with Abbas – when he made, like, the reconciliation with Hamas, you said if the Hamas is going to participate, we’re going to – we’re not going to work with them, right?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you’re conflating a bunch of things here. At the end – at the suspension of the peace talks that we had several – more than that – weeks ago now, we very clearly put the onus on both sides for having taken steps that led to the suspension of the talks, including the Palestinian side. So – and I just said we urge both parties to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension. This is in response to a specific Israeli action.
QUESTION: I know, but like – you’re always, like, disappointed, but not to do actions.
MS. HARF: I’m constantly disappointed.
QUESTION: But then when Hamas, like, enter to the equation, you go ahead and you say, like, no, we’re not going to work with any government that Hamas is part of it. But you don’t say the same – you don’t give the same strong, like, language towards the Israelis when they say, oh, we’re going to ahead and build, like 15 —
MS. HARF: I think we are very clear in expressing our concern with steps both sides take. I think throughout this process both sides have said we’re tougher on the other one or tougher on them. We’re tough on both when we have to be.