USDoS Spokesperson says best way forward is direct negotiations – USDoS press briefing/Non-UN document (excerpts)

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

October 22, 2014


1:14 p.m. EDT




QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Kerry said that the current situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis is not sustainable. Could you explain to us —

MS. HARF: We’ve all said that. That’s been said by many people many times.

QUESTION: I understand. Well, let me ask you, what does that mean? What does it mean that it’s not sustainable?

MS. HARF: It means that the best outcome for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is two states living side by side in peace and security, this is – through a negotiated settlement. The current status quo is not sustainable. Multiple Administration officials have said that.

QUESTION: But the Israelis probably beg to differ because they have sustained an occupation since 1967. Would you disagree?

MS. HARF: Well, we would obviously say, Said, that under some sort of negotiated settlement, that would provide more security to Israel. That’s the point here.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me – the Palestinians are planning to go to the Security Council. They claim to have seven votes already. They are working to get two more so they can submit the proposal to the Security Council about mid-month or right after the election. Are you aware of that or you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I had – obviously, I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals, Said. I know there’s been some rumors about this, but I would reiterate that we strongly believe that the preferred course of action here is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly, and have long made clear the negotiations are the means by which this conflict will need to be resolved.

QUESTION: And in response, it seems that the Israelis have a plan to actually annex Area C, which is 60 percent of the West Bank. It’s a plan that was submitted by the Minister of Economics Naftali Bennett last year, and it seems now they have agreed to it, whereby they give some Palestinians in that area some citizenship and so on. Are you aware of that in response to —

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that. I don’t have any comment on it.

Yes, Jo.

QUESTION: Just to get back to the UN Security Council —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — resolution, I believe the Palestinians need nine out of 15 members for it to go through. Are you working actively, as the United States, as an Administration, to try and dissuade people from backing the Palestinian move?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been engaging with the Israelis and the Palestinians on this, as well as with other parties in the Security Council, and we’ll continue to do so. I don’t have a readout of those conversations to give you, but we’ve made clear what our position is, and believe the best way forward here is direct negotiations.

QUESTION: And I wanted to ask, last week when we were traveling, there was an article that came out in Haaretz about a phone conversation that the Secretary had with Prime Minister Netanyahu – I believe it was a very lengthy phone conversation – during which apparently, according to the author’s sources, the Secretary asked Prime Minister Netanyahu whether he would be, in any shape or form, prepared to go back to negotiations based on the 1967 borders. Is that something that’s correct? Was the basic premise of this article correct?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see the article. I’m happy to take a look at it. Obviously, we’re not going to read out the conversations the Secretary has with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he hasn’t been shy about saying – the Secretary hasn’t been shy about saying that eventually, if we can get back to the table, we’d like to.

QUESTION: But are there any active moves to try and get back to the table —

MS. HARF: I think —

QUESTION: — rather than just the sort of “We want to do it,” but are you actively trying to —

MS. HARF: I can check with our team, but we can’t want it more than they do.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding this description or diagnosis of that the status quo is not sustainable, is U.S., as honest broker, mediator, peace partner, whatever you can describe yourself, planning to do anything, or just describing that the status quo is sustain – is not sustainable?

MS. HARF: I think you’ve seen what – the activity in this building over the past year aimed at trying to see if we can bring these two parties together and eventually get to a negotiated settlement here. I think that we can be accused of a lot of things. One of them is not inaction, though. So on this, we are very committed to it. We can’t want it more than they do. But this remains a top priority of the Secretary’s and of this Administration’s.

QUESTION: I’m trying to figure out, I mean, to – just to know an – have an idea. It’s – I’m not talking about the past, of the last year. I’m talking about, from now on, I mean the coming weeks, is there any intention or planning or at least wish to start something? And how you are trying to do something which is diplomatically acceptable or palatable to both sides?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, what we’ve been focused on most recently is trying to get a long-term sustainable ceasefire in place in Gaza, given the recent conflict there. So that’s been what we’ve been most focused on. But at the same time, as you heard the Secretary say in Cairo, long term, the way to resolve this is through a negotiated settlement.

QUESTION: Can I ask (inaudible), do you have any information about this car ramming that happened in Jerusalem today?

MS. HARF: We’ve seen the reports. We’re concerned about them, obviously condemn any such acts. The Israelis are currently looking into the incident. We are in touch with them and we’ll see what more information we can get, also urge all sides to exercise restraint and maintain calm. But we don’t have more details on it.

QUESTION: Are you aware of – there are reports that apparently, the three people who were injured were Americans?

MS. HARF: I was not aware of that.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you check?

MS. HARF: I can.


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