In call with Israeli PM Netanyahu, SecState Kerry conveyed US opposition to unilateral steps that would prejudge outcome of negotiations on Jerusalem – USDoS press briefing/Non-UN document (excerpts)

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

October 28, 2014





1:18 p.m. EDT


QUESTION: I’d like to go to Israel-Palestine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There have been media reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected criticism of Israel’s settlement policy saying that criticism was the impediment to peace. I was wondering if I could get this building’s reaction to that.

And secondly, I’m just wondering if there’s discussion or interest in going back to or trying to rekindle talks, perhaps after the midterm election is over or in the next few months.

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first question, we’ve seen the prime minister’s remarks. I think that’s what you’re referring to – his remarks earlier today?

QUESTION: Right. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Our policy has been clear for many administrations. The policy continues to oppose unilateral steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on Jerusalem. Certainly, Secretary Kerry – I mentioned this a little bit yesterday – but he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Saturday. He conveyed very clearly what our view is on settlements. And the fact remains that if actions are taken that are not conducive to peace, it makes it very difficult to not only return to a negotiation but to obviously reach a two-state solution.

In terms of the reconvening, that is going to be up in any scenario to the parties to determine whether they’re willing to take the steps necessary to do that. Obviously, we will continue to be available and advocate for the benefits of a two-state solution for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and for the region. But certainly we can’t do it for them.


QUESTION: But he dismissed your criticism, and he basically said that building in Jerusalem is like building in London or Paris or any of the other capitals. Do you agree with them? Do you agree that they have the right to build as they wish in Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view on construction is longstanding, Said. And we’ve stated it many times here. We’ll continue to express those views. We’ve – as I mentioned yesterday, we continue to urge both sides to take steps that are conducive to what they state they want to achieve, which is peace in the region and a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. He also said that if you keep criticizing the settlement, that is likely to give the Palestinians unwarranted hopes that they may not realize. Are you aware of his statement?

MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said – I would just leave it with what I said. I think clearly there are a range of issues that would need to be discussed. Obviously, there are a range of difficult choices that both sides would need to make. As you know, we’re not – there aren’t ongoing peace negotiations. And as you also know, we believe that’s the only way to achieve peace in the region.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, the Security Council just announced that they will meet tomorrow to discuss the settlement expansion and the settlement activities. It was done at the request of Jordan, which is a member of the Security Council. Now, will you call on the Israelis to call back or to nullify their earlier announcement about the expansion of settlement?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve already conveyed our views; I did yesterday, I did today. In terms of the meeting tomorrow, obviously, those reports are – were just coming out this morning. I don’t have any more information on what the agenda is or what the plans are for tomorrow, and I expect we can talk more about it tomorrow when we know more.

QUESTION: Okay. But if the Security Council calls on Israel to withdraw its plans, will you support such a request or such a demand in this case?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically get ahead of actions that have not yet been taken and haven’t even been laid out.

QUESTION: Do you think that any action in the Security Council will sort of engender the kind of veto that we have experienced in the past from the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a sweeping generalization, Said. We don’t have information yet on what the plan is.

QUESTION: The European Union also condemned the plans, saying that it calls into question Israel’s commitment to negotiate a solution. But they actually went a step further than the United States has been prepared to go, saying that if it does go ahead, there’s going to be consequences for EU-Israel ties, some of which we’ve already seen in the past with previous announcements. Again, I guess this goes back to Matt’s question of yesterday. I mean, is the United States prepared to put in place consequences if these settlements go ahead?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what I’ve stated about our view.

QUESTION: But why not? I mean, wouldn’t – if – you can say that you condemn the settlements, that they’re contrary to peace. I think you said it was, yesterday, “incompatible” with any peace plans. But if you don’t back it up with any kind of action, then the Israelis surely can just go ahead and do it for as long as they like.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I would disagree with that. Obviously, there are a range of countries you just referenced that have indicated their plans to put in place consequences. Israel cares deeply about their place and role in the world. That’s obviously something they factor in. They’ve stated they want to see a peaceful society for their people. If they want to achieve that, then there are steps that they should take themselves. So —

QUESTION: But the United States is the biggest backer – single backer of Israel. If the United States moved to do even halfway what some of the European countries are doing, would that not lend more weight to your cause to stop the settlement building?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I think I’m going to leave it with what I said.

QUESTION: Would there have come a moment when the United States will say you must stop settlements or we’re going to do X, Y, and Z? Or is this going to remain at the level —

MS. PSAKI: I think Jo asked the same question. Let’s just try to get a couple of others, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Let me just – okay. Just very quickly, a follow-up to that: Have you found out anything about the teenage Palestinian American boy that was shot?

MS. PSAKI: I have a little bit more in terms of the specific technical answers that all of you were asking.


MS. PSAKI: So let me run through a little bit of that.


MS. PSAKI: The Israeli National Police is handling the investigation on the death of the three-month-old American in the light rail attack incident. We’re in close touch with the INP and understand the investigation is ongoing. We’ve asked for a speedy, transparent, and thorough investigation.

For the teenager who was killed in the West Bank during a confrontation with Israeli forces, Israeli authorities are conducting the investigation. We have stressed to a number of Israeli Government officials our expectation that there will be a speedy, transparent, and thorough investigation, and they have indicated to us that that will be the case. That is the update I have at this point in time.



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