US views settlement activity as illegitimate and opposes unilateral steps that prejudge future of Jerusalem – USDoS press briefing/Non-UN document (excerpts)

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

October 27, 2014





1:37 p.m. EDT


QUESTION: On Israel, could you talk about Israel accelerating new settlement units that was just announced today, and if you – we could just follow on last week. It just seems that there’s a little bit of acrimony between the U.S. and Israel right now surrounding the defense minister’s visit, Israel now with these settlements and what’s going on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen – they’ve been reports. There haven’t been an official announcement at this point in time. We’re certainly deeply concerned by the reports. We are engaging at the highest levels with the Israeli Government from our Embassy on the ground to get —

QUESTION: Does that mean the President’s called?

MS. PSAKI: No. We’re – I said on the ground – from our Embassy on the ground to get more information. And we continue to make our position absolutely clear that we view settlement activity as illegitimate and unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem. Israel’s leaders have said they would support a pathway to a two-state solution, but moving forward with this type of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace, and that is certainly a message that we are conveying directly.

In terms of our relationship, the defense relationship, as you know, remains as strong as ever and the ties between us are unshakable. There are times when we disagree with actions of the Israeli Government, including settlements, the issue of settlements, where we have deep concerns about some of the steps the government is taking. We express those, but it does not mean that we don’t have a strong and formidable relationship that continues.

QUESTION: Sorry, do – have there – has there been any contact outside of the Embassy with the Israelis since the defense minister left?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary spoke with the prime minister this weekend.

QUESTION: Could you read it out so we can —

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. About what?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll check and see if there’s more to read out from the call. It was not about the visit of the defense minister, obviously.

QUESTION: It wasn’t?


QUESTION: But – okay. So it had to do with your concerns about settlements, or it had to do with the two American children who were —

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to read out for you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. So in terms of you making your point clear on settlements when you’re speaking with the Israelis, have they been told that you’re actually going to do anything if they go ahead, or is it just that you’re going to say that you’re upset?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve expressed our view exactly as I just expressed it, Matt.

QUESTION: So there isn’t – so there is no consequence, then, beyond you just saying that you think it’s —

MS. PSAKI: This is often your question when we have a discussion on this issue.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if this time it would be different —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we said —

QUESTION: — because what —

MS. PSAKI: — many times before, there obviously is – you’ve seen reactions from the international community. You’ve seen our strong reactions from here. And I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but those strong reactions don’t actually – it doesn’t stop them from doing anything, though.

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering if this time – if they go ahead with what you were just talking about, that you’re deeply concerned, I’m wondering if it will actually draw a consequence —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the key —

QUESTION: — other than you getting angry from the podium.

MS. PSAKI: The key challenge, Matt, I think, is if Israel wants to see – wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps to reduce tensions and to avoid steps that are going to be incompatible with peace. And that’s consequences that they would – they would – that would impact them directly.

QUESTION: Are you saying that – I mean, do you think now that, basically, Israel is kind of giving up on that and is just going ahead with its own unilateral plans?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that. I would leave it at what I just said, which is that it’s incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.

QUESTION: You called – late on Friday you issued a fairly strong statement in your name calling for a speedy and transparent investigation into the killing of a U.S. citizen apparently by – or your statement said by the Israeli Defense Forces. It’s been 48 hours since – more than that, actually – 60 hours, say, since you issued that statement. Have you yet seen a speedy and transparent or speedy or transparent investigation by the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I don’t have a day-to-day evaluation of the investigation. We remain closely engaged with authorities. Our consulate-general in Jerusalem is in contact with the family, but obviously, we want to see that investigation rapidly concluded.

QUESTION: Is the FBI involved in that?

QUESTION: Could you ask – can I keep going on this? Forgive me. You asked for it to be fast. Has it been fast?

MS. PSAKI: It’s been moving forward. I don’t have an evaluation of the investigation timeline.

QUESTION: Could you take that one for us? Because you asked —

MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if there’s more that we can convey.

QUESTION: — publicly for a speedy investigation. More than two days has gone by. A U.S. citizen is dead, and it —

MS. PSAKI: I’m well aware. That’s why we put out the statement on Friday.

QUESTION: And that’s exactly why I’m asking if you’ve actually seen whether or not there has been a speedy investigation.

MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if there’s more we want to convey from the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government involved in the investigation? Have any – is the FBI involved in any way, or if this is the Israeli Defense Force —

MS. PSAKI: Local authorities have the lead, Elise. Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Well – but, I mean, usually in the killing of an American citizen – I mean, usually the FBI or some other kind of U.S. law enforcement agency would be involved in the investigation. You’re just leaving it up to the Israelis to investigate these – supposed Israeli killing of an American citizen?

MS. PSAKI: I will check to see if there are any U.S. officials involved.

QUESTION: Jen, there was another U.S. citizen who was killed in – last week as well, a child. And you put out a statement —

MS. PSAKI: We did.

QUESTION: — about that as well, Actually, a baby, I guess, is the correct —

MS. PSAKI: Yes. A three-month-old baby.

QUESTION: Yes. How is the investigation into that going?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on the investigations. I would encourage you all to ask the Israeli authorities that question.

QUESTION: Okay. Several —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Hold on, Elise. Several months ago, there was a shooting – there was an incident involving a shooting of some Palestinian youths. They weren’t Americans, but you called at that time for an – this was the video, the one that was captured on videotape. Are you aware of the results of that Israeli investigation?

MS. PSAKI: I would encourage you to ask the Israeli authorities for —

QUESTION: All right. And then —

MS. PSAKI: — any outcomes they would like to share with you.

QUESTION: In the case of the Palestinian American teenager who was killed on Friday, are you – do you know the circumstances under which he was shot?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: There are – okay. The reason I ask is because there are reports out there that he was throwing Molotov cocktails at cars on a highway. And I’m wondering, if that is the case, would you have still been so speedy in putting out a statement and offering your condolences to the family? The argument that is being made by some in Israel is that this kid was essentially a terrorist. And you don’t agree with that, I assume, but I don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, we don’t. I don’t have any more details on the circumstances now.

QUESTION: So you – does that – that would apply even if he was throwing Molotov cocktails?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate. I don’t have details to share.

QUESTION: All right. The other thing —

QUESTION: Back to the baby – back to the —

QUESTION: Well, I’ve got – I’ve got to get one more on this and then I’m done. There is a photograph of this teenager’s – this teenager being buried today, and he’s wearing a Hamas headband. It was put on him, obviously. Is that of concern at all to you guys?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more on this particular case.

QUESTION: Back to the baby. Can you – I mean, supposedly it was by Palestinian militants or whomever, not by the Israelis. Could you say or check whether – that the U.S. is involved in the investigation into the killing, into that car accident?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there is U.S. involvement in either of the cases.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, you said that Israeli leaders are committed to the two-state solution. Have you read the interview with the Israeli defense minister this weekend?

MS. PSAKI: I said they have stated that, but obviously —

QUESTION: Okay. But he actually —

MS. PSAKI: — actions like settlement activity are inconsistent with that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me get your reaction to what he said. He actually – he says that no, not a two-state solution, that the Palestinians basically will not give more than some sort of an autonomy, that both Abbas, as his predecessor Arafat, are not committed to peace, they don’t accept Israel, and so on. I mean, he said some strong stuff.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I have not looked at the interview. But as you know, there are some who are not supporters of a two-state solution or a peaceful outcome.


MS. PSAKI: So I don’t think that’s —

QUESTION: So you find yourself in a sort of a different position, an opposing position, if you will, to the Israeli defense minister? You think that Abbas is —

MS. PSAKI: Said, I have not looked —

QUESTION: — is a partner for peace?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I have not looked at the interview. I’m happy to do that. I would just state there have been comments made in the past that are not supportive of a two-state solution by individuals. Obviously, we have been working with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the past when we’ve been pursuing this process.

QUESTION: But – hold on a second.

QUESTION: Let me ask you this.

QUESTION: If – hold on, Said. If you’re talking about people in the Israeli Government or Israeli politicians who are not in favor of a two-state solution, presumably these are the people who are pushing for new settlement activity. Is that your understanding, that the consequence of that then is that they get what they want, which is they – there is no two-state solution?

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: I don’t understand how you expect to change Israel’s behavior as it relates to settlements if all you’re prepared to do is to verbally criticize it and not impose any consequence on it when the very people who are doing it – you’re saying the consequence is they don’t get a two-state solution. Well, that’s exactly what the people who are pushing the settlements want.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we’ve in the past —

QUESTION: Not a two-state solution.

MS. PSAKI: — obviously, the international community is watching closely what they do. I’m going to leave it at that.

Do we have more on this topic?

QUESTION: I’ve got one more.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: To go back to Matt’s question about – were you aware when you put out the statement on Friday night that there were allegations that the Palestinian American teenager had been throwing – our story said a Molotov cocktail and it was – it had run before your statement came out. So didn’t you – did you know at the time when you put out the statement that there were allegations that he was engaged in violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were media reports, Arshad.


MS. PSAKI: Beyond that, I don’t have anything to read out for you.

QUESTION: Right, no. But I just wanted to get on the record that you knew about those reports when you put out the call for the speedy investigation.

QUESTION: Matt – I mean Arshad, I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s more —

QUESTION: But just to clarify what Matt was saying, and you said – you kind of said something but it was just very short —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — you do not believe that this teenager was throwing Molotov cocktails. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: That’s – I don’t have any more to outline or confirm for you in terms of the circumstances.

QUESTION: No, he said that you don’t believe that to be the case.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I said.

QUESTION: Do you? And you said no, you – no.

MS. PSAKI: He asked me if we thought he was a terrorist, and I said no.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Is that no longer the case? Do you think you were too precipitous, perhaps, in issuing that statement condemning —

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re going to have to move on now.


QUESTION: I just need to go back to Israel for one second —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — and I don’t expect you to necessarily know the answer to this —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — but maybe if you could take it. It does have to do with the two Americans who were killed —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — last week and the statements that were put out by you, by this building in your name. One is that you said that now, the investigations – the Israeli investigations into both incidents are still going on, correct? And so you don’t want to draw any conclusions, so —

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding. Unless they’ve put out any specifics —

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MS. PSAKI: — from Israel, they’re led by the Israelis.

QUESTION: But your statement on Wednesday about the baby being killed talked about the incident being a terrorist attack, okay?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So that is based on what the Israelis told you? Because the family of the guy who was driving the car say that he just lost control. Well, I don’t know whether that’s true or not.

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s based on our evaluation of the events on the ground, but —

QUESTION: Okay. But the investigation is still ongoing, and – but now, you’re – but you are not – you are sure or you don’t think that the Palestinian American teenager was a terrorist or engaged in a violent act, even though the investigation —

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear. I don’t have an assessment of the events.

QUESTION: — isn’t over?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of the events that happened last Friday. Obviously, we put out the statement because of – obviously, it’s a tragedy when a young teenager is killed, but there’s an investigation that will go on that’s not led by us. We’ll wait to see how that proceeds.

QUESTION: Could I – what about the two other elections?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just from the nature of the – you said local authorities and then you said Israeli-led. I mean, to your knowledge, does the investigation of the death of the Palestinian American teenager on Friday have any Palestinian involvement, or is it entirely run by the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the local authorities there for more of a breakdown of who is running the investigation.

QUESTION: So you don’t know? When you’re calling for an expedient, transparent investigation, you’re not sure who you’re asking for it from?

MS. PSAKI: Arshad, I said local authorities. Obviously, the Israelis lead most of these. Let me see if there’s more we can provide to you to make it more clear to you.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just interested to know – yeah, if the Palestinians are also involved or not.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll check and see if there’s more we can provide to you. Okay.



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