US Department of State daily press briefing – Update on Middle East peace process/Shooting of Israeli man/Non-UN document (excerpts)

Jen Psaki

Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

April 15, 2014

    • Parties Working to Extend Negotiations
    • Condemnation of Shooting that Killed Israeli Man on Eve of Passover
    • Officials on the Ground in Close Contact with Israelis


QUESTION: I wonder to begin with if you glanced at the editorial today in The New York Times calling that time – the time has come for the United States to state: This is our position, that’s how we see the state, this is how we see the parties reacting; or otherwise, it’s time for us to move on. Did you see this and do you agree with this notion?

MS. PSAKI: I did read the editorial. I do not agree with the notion. Neither does the negotiators, neither do the parties, neither does the Secretary. As you know, Said, the parties met this weekend. They’re going to be meeting again tomorrow. The parties are working right now on an agreement to extend the negotiations. And that means extending the negotiations past April 29th. There are naturally a range of issues being discussed. There are steps that both parties would need to take in order to improve the conditions for peace. But the parties remain highly engaged. Both parties tell us they want negotiations to continue and they’re searching for a path to do just that.

QUESTION: Okay. So you do expect the negotiating to continue past the 29th?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the parties are working on determining if there’s a path to extend the negotiations for a period of months past April 29th.

QUESTION: Do you feel comfortable that both parties will be likely to continue on for lack of a better alternative, really?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make any predictions. The parties are working on this as we speak.

QUESTION: Okay. So – but if – their positions, actually, they are – they’re sort of – are intransigent, really – their position. And in fact, the government of Mr. Netanyahu has members – very powerful members – who are not for the negotiations, they’re not even for a peace settlement.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And on the other hand, you have also factions within the Palestinian movement that are beginning to reject whatever outcome these negotiations might have. So you still see value in these negotiations going forward?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, because the Israeli and the Palestinian people deserve a two-state solution where parties are living side-by-side and they have the economic opportunity and the security that they deserve.


MS. PSAKI: And that’s why the parties remain committed and why they’re working so hard on extending negotiations.

QUESTION: But look at the last three days. I mean, the Israelis announced taking another 900 dunams, which is like 250, 300 acres and so on. Somebody attacked and killed – most likely a Palestinian – a settler and shot his wife yesterday on their way to a Passover dinner and so on. So the situation is really getting fluid and in flux and so on. What should be done to sort of reassure both sides —

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say – since you gave me opportunity, and then we’ll move to Jo, who I think has a question on the same topic – that we, of course, condemn the shooting that killed an Israeli man on the eve of Passover. We offer our condolences to the man’s family and support Israel’s efforts to bring those responsible for justice – to justice. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and avoid any actions that would raise tensions.

Let me just say finally, before we move to Jo, that naturally we know that these are issues that have a great deal of history, a great deal of emotion. But the parties remain engaged. They’ve indicated they want to see if there’s a path forward for extending the negotiations, and they’re going to continue to work on that effort. But they have a greater stake in it than the United States, so we’ll see if they’re willing to take the choices.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: If Jo allows me just real quick, the settlement that was expanded is really an old settlement, Gush Etzion. I mean, they took – I mean, it’s right in the heart of the West Bank. Did you at least condemn this particular takeover of private land? It’s a land —

MS. PSAKI: Are you – the moving in Hebron that – what – that happened —

QUESTION: No. The land that was taken, these last parts of privately owned Palestinian land —

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look at the details of that. You’re familiar with our view on settlements.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I wanted to check whether the talks that you mentioned tomorrow are going to take place with Ambassador Indyk as well.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on his travel yet. Nothing has changed since what we talked about last week, but I don’t have any update on when he’ll be traveling. But an important reminder here is there – they had meetings over the weekend without the U.S. negotiators participating. There may be some where the U.S. negotiators do participate, as there has been through the process. So as I have an update over the next day or so, we’ll – happy to keep you abreast.

QUESTION: So it’s possible these talks could happen without Ambassador Indyk tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. And I wanted to ask – and again, I’ve asked this yesterday, the day before – if you’ve had any more updates from the Israeli side on the tax issue about whether they’re going to – whether this reported freeze is actually happening or not.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t had any update. Obviously they’ve been sort of on their Passover holiday over the last 24 hours. I will see if there’s more we can report to all of you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Are you able to say what some of the issues are on the table about what the outlines of an agreement might look like to extend the talks beyond April the 29th, such as is there likely to be some kind of prisoner release or some kind of perhaps – not settlement, partial settlement freeze or something like that? Are you able to give us any details?

MS. PSAKI: All of those issues are being discussed. Clearly, it’s going to be the parties that need to make the choices about which steps they’re willing to take and whether the other corresponding party agrees to that as part of the nature of the possible extension. But many of those same issues are still being discussed and on the table.

QUESTION: And given where we are and how bleak everything seemed in the last week or so —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — how hopeful are you that they will get an extension of the talks?

MS. PSAKI: It’s hard to put a grade or a number on that, because it’s ultimately up to them. And while we certainly are strong supporters of this effort and we have been very active participants and boosters, they have to make some tough choices. And again, because there are decades of emotions and history, it’s not an easy thing. Certainly, it’s important to note that the negotiations are ongoing, that the parties have indicated they want them to be ongoing, and that they are open to discussing and actively discussing an extension. So that is positive. But we’re not going to put the cart before the horse here.

QUESTION: And just a final one. Have you any kind of notion – are we talking about a few months, are we talking about another nine-month extension, or a year? Do you have – is there a timeframe emerging?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll leave that to the parties to discuss and decide what is appropriate and what amount of time they need, if they agree to an extension.

QUESTION: Jen, technically it would be – if the negotiations go past the 29th of April, will this be announced, let’s say, in Washington, take place in Washington, symbolically or otherwise like last year?

MS. PSAKI: You have a communications planning future in your life, I think. I can’t make any prediction of that, Said, because the parties are still working through what the conditions would be and whether there will be an extension.


MS. PSAKI: So there’s nothing I can report to you on that front.

QUESTION: Okay. On a separate issue from the start of the talks, have you talked to the Israelis since yesterday, since I asked yesterday, about the withholding of the tax revenues?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not. Obviously, we have a range of officials on the ground who are in very close touch with the – both the Israelis and the Palestinians.


(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)

DPB #66

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