Daily Press Briefing
December 2, 2014
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
MIDDLE EAST PEACE/FRANCE
1:25 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have you seen that the lower house of the French parliament has recognized the Palestinian state?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: You have something to say?
MS. HARF: Well, we understand that this vote is nonbinding and that the French Government’s position on this issue has not changed. Obviously, the French can speak more for themselves on this issue. As you know, our position has been clear, is clear, that we support Palestinian statehood, but only coming through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues. So again, the French can probably speak more about it, but our position hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Have we touched upon the Palestinian-Israeli issue?
MS. HARF: We did, but we can go back to it, Said.
MS. HARF: We’re jumping all around the world today.
QUESTION: Well, only as it relates to France.
MS. HARF: We’ve only talked about it as it relates to France, yes.
QUESTION: Please don’t ask about the – you’re not going to say anything more than the Secretary did about the governmental —
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: — changes in Israel, are you?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Okay. But let me ask you this on the governmental changes, if I may, okay?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: You’re not going to get anything.
MS. HARF: Give it a shot, Said. Let’s see.
QUESTION: All right. Yeah. Do you expect this to really complicate, or would you take this as perhaps to convince the Palestinians, considering the volatility of the situation, to wait until after a new Israeli government is formed if they are pursuing their efforts at the UN?
MS. HARF: Well, there’s a couple things wrapped up into your question there —
MS. HARF: — and as the Secretary said, we’re not going to give commentary on Israel’s internal domestic political situation, no matter who’s in the government, no matter whether they have elections or not. We hope and expect that the government will continue to negotiate to resolve their differences. We’ve said this no matter who’s in power, and no matter who’s in power, they’re a very close partner and friend.
QUESTION: Okay. But —
MS. HARF: And I don’t want to get ahead of a process —
QUESTION: Right, right. But —
MS. HARF: — that is just, it appears, starting.
QUESTION: That’s true. But there are a couple of things, as you said. I mean, we have – on the one hand, the French are saying that they are going to submit a new proposal to restart the talks, and this will be like a last-ditch effort before going to conclude something on face-to-face talks instead of going to the United Nations. Do you have any comment on that, first of all?
MS. HARF: On the French?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those French comments. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. And also, I spoke with the Palestinian representative at the UN today, and he’s saying that they are definitely determined to go to the UN route as – the Security Council route, and perhaps by mid-month. Are you actively advising them not to do so?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been in constant communication, at the Secretary’s level and below, with our partners on both sides here, including the Palestinians, about all of these issues. You know what our position has been on them. I’m not going to outline specifics of those conversations that we’ve had with them. But clearly, we talk to them about this all the time, and I don’t want to get ahead of any potential action.
QUESTION: And finally, on the UN effort, the Palestinian efforts at the UN, would you accept any kind of language, or you just reject the whole concept out of hand?
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: The whole concept of going to the UN.
MS. HARF: I mean, you know what our position has been on this throughout many months and years, Said.
MS. HARF: I’m not going to address a hypothetical.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to your answer on the issue of the recognition by the lower house of the National Assembly in France?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yeah.
QUESTION: Recognizing that this is nonbinding and it’s not the government’s position and the government hasn’t changed, we have, however, seen another – a country, Sweden, recognized – I believe it’s Sweden – recognized the state of Palestine. And I just wonder whether you believe that this is a likely trend that we could see in some of the European countries that they could go ahead and do this, and how – whether you feel that this could complicate efforts to get a peace deal.
MS. HARF: Well, I probably am not going to get in the business of predicting trends, but I will say that the U.S. position is clear that we support Palestinian statehood but believe it can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues. And a number of these countries, I think including France, agree – again, this is nonbinding, the French Government position on this hasn’t changed. So I think what you’re seeing are people around the world speaking out and saying the status quo is unacceptable. We’ve said that. Everyone has – a lot of people have said that. But we very firmly believe that the way to achieve two states is through direct negotiations. We are very crystal clear on that, and again, think that’s the way things need to proceed from here.
QUESTION: But do these votes, if they come piecemeal, if we see other countries do this – and France itself has actually said that if there’s no resolution of this issue within a couple of years they could well be forced to go ahead and recognize a state of Palestine given that, in their view, a two-state solution inherently does that. Do you believe that these sorts of votes are harmful to the peace process?
MS. HARF: Well, we believe that the way you’re going to get resolution here, we are going to have two states living side by side, isn’t through this kind of action; it’s through direct negotiations. And that’s our position and that’s where we’re going to stay.
QUESTION: If I may just quickly follow up on the cabinet, considering that Minister Livni was – worked very closely with you on the negotiations – I mean, she’s, in fact, championed the talks and so on – do you believe that her leaving the cabinet is a setback in the process to sort of restart the talks?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to do political analysis on what’s happening in Israel.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS. HARF: What happens in democracies is people come in and out of government.
MS. HARF: And that’s how the process works. Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday I had asked Jen about whether you guys had expressed any concerns about incitement coming from Jordan, the parliament. She didn’t have an answer.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if you have one.
MS. HARF: I’ve got something.
MS. HARF: As we’ve said many times, we believe that the terrorist attack in Jerusalem on the worshipers at the synagogue warrants strong – the strongest condemnation possible. And unlike the action of the parliament, the Government of Jordan said clearly that it, quote, “condemns all acts of violence and terrorism against civilians.” We’ve welcomed that condemnation and continue to work to encourage all sides to work together cooperatively. So again, the Government of Jordan very strongly condemned it.
QUESTION: Okay. But you know you have —
MS. HARF: And we think that’s what’s important here.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, fair enough. But you have – you’ve been asked now about two parliamentary decisions, one in France and one – now one in Jordan. And these people, much like our Congress, represent the people of Jordan and the people of France.
MS. HARF: In a certain way, yes.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, they are their voices, their democratically elected lawmakers. So it seems a bit disingenuous to say oh, well, this isn’t the government’s position. It’s apparently the position of the people. So —
MS. HARF: Well, I – those are —
QUESTION: — are you not at all concerned?
MS. HARF: Let’s separate those two things out. I don’t think you could say everything done by every parliament around the world, including the United States Congress, is always representative of how the people feel. I think that’s a stretch a little bit that I wouldn’t make that intellectual leap. But what I would say is that when you —
QUESTION: So democracy is just a sham? That’s what —
MS. HARF: That’s not what I said, Matt. Come on. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You’re either —
MS. HARF: You said that everything that a parliament or a congress says is representative entirely of the people under – that elect them.
QUESTION: No, but the people elected those – the people elected —
MS. HARF: Right. You don’t agree with every bill Congress passes, do you? Every statement they make on everything?
QUESTION: I don’t know, but they speak on behalf of the American people.
MS. HARF: They do, as does the government.
QUESTION: Okay. So you think that the —
MS. HARF: And the Government of Jordan very clearly came out and condemned this and has been very strongly condemning terrorism.
QUESTION: All right. So in other words, but you – you’re not aware if anyone has gone to the Jordanian politicians and said, hey listen, this is —
MS. HARF: From the U.S.?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. Again, we don’t agree with what they said, but —
QUESTION: No, no, I understand that.