Daily Press Briefing
January 8, 2016
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
2:14 p.m. EST
QUESTION: What is the U.S. reaction to reports that the Israel minister of defense on Wednesday approved the creation of a 10-acre settlement in the West Bank?
MR KIRBY: We are deeply concerned about the minister of defense’s decision to expand the existing settlement boundary of the Gush Etzion Regional Council to include a former church compound, which effectively creates a new settlement on 10 acres in the West Bank. It’s important to note that some 70 percent of the West Bank’s Area C has already been unilaterally designated as Israeli state land, or within the boundaries of these regional settlement councils.
The new decision only expands this significant majority of the West Bank that has already been claimed for exclusive Israeli use. Along with the regular retroactive legalization of unauthorized outposts and construction of infrastructure in remote settlements, actions such as this decision clearly undermine the possibility of a two-state solution.
And Samir, as you know, our longstanding position on settlement activity is clear and has not changed. We view it as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. Continued settlement activity and expansion raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions and will only make achieving a two-state solution that much more difficult. As we’ve previously made clear, we continue to look at both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to a two-state solution, and actions such as yesterday’s decision, we believe, does just the opposite.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Wait, yesterday’s or Wednesday’s?
MR KIRBY: My point – Wednesday.
QUESTION: But can I just follow up very quickly on this issue? What about the – those who are purchasing these lands? There are – there seems to be American groups and American citizens that are buying this land or establish some sort of schemes through which they can buy land and so on. There is a lot of wealthy Americans who are buying some of this land and financing the settlements. Do you have a position on that? I mean, do you have – do you call on, let’s say, United States citizens who live in the United States that the purchase of land for the purpose of settlement expansion is a hindrance to peace or to the efforts or to would-be talks?
MR KIRBY: I would just say – I would just say two things, Said – that these donors are private citizens —
MR KIRBY: — but this Administration, like every one before it since 1967, views settlement activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. And the U.S. Government does not support any activity that would indicate otherwise, okay?
QUESTION: Okay. If I also may follow on a couple issues on the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, I know I asked you on Wednesday about the excessive use of force, possible excessive use of force. I mean, just today, the Israelis shot with live ammunition 14 Palestinians throughout the West Bank, they attacked demonstrators, including Western demonstrators, including Americans, who were in support of the Palestinians with tear gas, many of them were injured, and so on. But you will not say that Israel is using an excessive use of force in quelling these demonstrations and these confrontations, despite the fact that you are aware that there are things that are very close – if you don’t want to call them that way, but they look like so many executions and so on. So when will you at call – at what level will you say that this is really an excessive use of force that we will not accept?
MR KIRBY: I have been nothing but consistent, Said, that I’m not going to characterize every single act or every single word that’s uttered. We’ve made clear to all sides what we want to see, which is tensions to go down, violence to stop, and innocent people allowed to continue their lives. Now, look, in general, without speaking to any one act, of course we never want to see security forces in any country overreact to activities. But I’m not going to get into a situation where every act there we are making judgments about or characterizing. We’ve made it very clear to leaders on all sides what we want to see happen here. People need to be able to go about their lives on all sides of this and to live peacefully, and that’s what we want to see. And the violence that continues is doing nothing to get us there. It’s certainly not doing anything to get us to a point where you can legitimately begin to talk about pursuing a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Including easing up on the checkpoints? I mean —
MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to —
QUESTION: — I’m sorry to bring in a personal issue, but I was talking to my newspaper editors, and they were held up for like three, four hours today at the checkpoints. They couldn’t get to the paper because of just at whim they hold them up for hours on end. I mean, what needs to be done? In your view, what needs to be done to ease the situation? You constantly speak of things that the Israelis can do to ease up the situation and make life somewhat more tolerable for the Palestinians.
MR KIRBY: We’ve said that leaders on all sides have a lot to do here, which is to take proactive steps to restore calm and to cease the violence, to allow innocent people to continue to live their lives, and to try to get us to a point where we can begin to work towards a two-state solution. That’s a requirement for leaders on all sides of this, Said, and we’ve been very consistent and very clear about that.