US Department of State daily press briefing – Middle East peace process – Non-UN document (excerpts)

Jen Psaki

Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

March 20, 2014

Index for Today's Briefing


  • Defense Secretary Hagel and Israeli Defense Minister Ya'alon / Secretary Kerry Expressed Concern to Prime Minister Netanyahu
  • Peace Negotiations


1:39 EDT


QUESTION: Back to the Middle East?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday we had a little bit of a discussion about Defense Minister Yaalon’s —


QUESTION: — recent comments. And since that – since our discussion here, he has called Secretary Hagel and, whether it was an apology or not, tried to make up or tried to make things better. I’m wondering if you – if the Administration now believes that this is a case closed, if it’s a done deal, or if you —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — still have concerns, given the frequency and – given the frequency of the defense minister’s disparaging comments, if this is not the end of the matter.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, and I also saw that the Pentagon put out a readout of that call this morning. As I said yesterday, Secretary Kerry expressed his concerns directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu during their call. He has remaining concerns about this pattern, but we are continuing to move forward on the peace process. And he is working with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the negotiating team is working with the negotiators. So we’re focused on those engagements.

QUESTION: Okay. So it’s not over for you guys. You still have —

MS. PSAKI: Well, he has remaining concerns about the pattern. But again, our —

QUESTION: From this particular official?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And now just in the same region but on the other side of the equation, the Palestinians – several senior Palestinian officials have said in the last several days that if the prisoner release does not go ahead as planned or expected or agreed, depending on which word you want to use, that they will immediately go to the United Nations and seek whatever it is they want to seek, recognition, before the end of the nine months – in other words, like, next week. I’m wondering what you think about that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke to the issue a couple of days ago.

QUESTION: Well, you spoke to the prisoners.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But do you believe that the Palestinians are committed to not going at least until – not going to the UN at least until the end of that nine-month target?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the nine-month timeframe was a commitment that both parties made in terms of taking steps or not taking steps that would be – taking steps that would be conducive to a peace negotiation. So certainly going to the UN would not fall into that category. This is an issue that is being worked out through the parties. I don’t have anything new to update you on. Obviously, we have a little bit of time until the next tranche is scheduled.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, a little bit. Not very much at all. The time is ticking. I’m just curious: Do you think that this is – you don’t have any way to describe it? It’s not constructive, it’s not helpful to the process – this kind of a threat; if you don’t – if the Israelis don’t do this, the hell with the timeframe, we’re going to the UN?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re familiar – everybody’s familiar with the timeframe. We are not surprised that there has been an increase in rhetoric over the past couple of weeks given where we are in the process in the pivotal period. But we’re just going to keep our head down and focused on the process.


QUESTION: — just to clarify, it’s – I’m sure you addressed this earlier, but it’s the U.S. view that the prisoner release should go ahead at the end of this month even if the Palestinian side does not commit to extend the negotiations beyond the end of April as the Israelis would like?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into that level of detail. These are all being – these issues are being discussed by the parties, so we’re going to let them stay in the negotiating room.

QUESTION: Jen, can I – more broadly then, are you still hopeful that come April the 29th, there’ll be something to show for the fruit of all these labors over the last nine months?

MS. PSAKI: Of course we are. That’s why we’re working so closely with the parties. Ambassador Indyk is headed back to the region tomorrow to work closely with them, and the Secretary has been closely engaged on the phone. And always the heat is on in the final weeks, and that’s where we are.

QUESTION: Do you have a Plan B? Is there, come April the 29th, if there isn’t a framework – there’s obviously not going to be a full peace treaty, but if there’s not a framework, what’s Plan B?

MS. PSAKI: Our focus is on the framework and continuing to narrow the gaps between the parties.


Document symbol: USDOS_DBP200314
Document Type: Briefing, Press briefing, Transcript
Country: Israel, United States of America
Subject: Peace process, Peace proposals and efforts, Prisoners and detainees
Publication Date: 20/03/2014
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