John Kirby

Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

March 4, 2016

INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING

/…

MIDDLE EAST PEACE

/…

TRANSCRIPT:

2:01 p.m. EST

/…

QUESTION: Very quickly, today the White House announced that Vice President Biden will be going to Israel and the West Bank, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But they also said that there’s no breakthrough. I mean, of course, he’s the vice president and maybe you’ll tell me – direct me to ask them, but is there anything maybe behind the scenes? Are we likely to see the process re-energized again, or is there something that the Vice President is coordinating with the Secretary of State on?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think it’s safe to assume that the Secretary continues to speak with all members of the interagency, including the Vice President, about issues of priority to him and things that he’s working on. He’s certainly kept the Vice President informed of his recent travels to the region and the conversations that he has with leaders there, including Prime Minister Netanyahu. I won’t speak for the Vice President. I am going to refer you to the White House for details about his travels and his objectives. I wouldn’t get ahead of that.

But let me just say more broadly speaking that the United States Government remains committed to trying to see a path forward here to getting – to get to a two-state solution. Nothing’s changed about that. We still want to see that outcome. And this notion that it’s moribund, we’ve given it up, that it’s something that needs to be kick-started would be – conveys this idea that we’ve just thrown up our hands or that we did at some point, and that’s just not the way the Secretary looks at this. This is an issue that has remained important to him and he still believes that it’s worth the effort to continue to have discussions to try to get at that two-state solution. We were just out there a week and a half ago to continue to have these kinds of conversations, and you know the Secretary better than I do. I think you can fully expect that we’ll be heading out that way again in the future. There’s no question about that.

QUESTION: Did he meet there with —

QUESTION: I don’t think I know him as well as you do, but let me just remind you: The last time Vice President Biden went there, in 2010, right while he was there, the Israelis announced the expansion of settlements by 1,600 houses and so on. Would you counsel the Israelis not to do that? That would be considered a slight by Israel against the United States or —

MR KIRBY: I think you know I’m not going to talk about the details of private discussions that we have, diplomatic discussions we have with leaders anywhere in the world. We – our position on settlements has not changed. Our view of the demolitions have not changed. I mean, we’ve been very clear and consistent on that, and we’ve done that publicly, so I think you can imagine what our position has been in private settings as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And one last question. The Israelis are planning to tear down a Bedouin village – in fact, a number of Bedouin villages – and replace them with Israeli Jewish villages and so on. These are Israeli citizens and so on. Do you have any contact with the Israelis on this issue? Are you raising this issue with them? It’s in the Negev – in the Negev desert.

MR KIRBY: On the —

QUESTION: In Hiran, the —

MR KIRBY: Yeah. Well, look, I mean, we’re closely following, as I said, demolitions and evictions that are undertaken by Israeli authorities, leaving many Palestinians homeless. And as we’ve said before, Said, these actions are indicative of a damaging trend of demolition, displacement, and land confiscation, and alongside settlement-related activity and continued construction, work against the possibility of a two-state solution and call into question the Israeli Government’s commitment to that two-state solution. So again, I would say the same thing we’ve said before about this.

QUESTION: But that’s – that – those are Israeli citizens. I mean, that would amount to ethnic cleansing, because they are being moved because they’re Bedouins and Muslim and so on, and they are being replaced by other citizens of Israel. Would you consider that to be some sort of an ethnic cleaning process?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to characterize it any more than I already have. We’ve – our position on the demolitions and the – and continued construction in the settlements has been very clear and consistent, and that’s not going to change.

QUESTION: John, did the Secretary meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu on his last trip to the region?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything specific to read out with respect to the other meetings. I think we talked about what he was doing out there.

QUESTION: Some reports talked about a meeting between the two in Jordan in his last trip.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t have any additional details other than what we talked —

QUESTION: No confirmation?

MR KIRBY: — other than what we talked about on the trip.

QUESTION: You can’t deny those reports?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything more to add.

/…