Daily Press Briefing
May 19, 2014
- Recent Political Developments
- Martin Indyk's Speech Last Week / Unhelpful Steps by Both Sides / Ambassador Shapiro and CG Ratney Remain on the Ground / Door Open to Peace
1:45 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Are you prepared to deal with a unity government that is the PA – the PLO and Hamas? Because there are reports in the Israeli press that you are ready to deal with the government, provided that it adheres to the Quartet principles.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position as the United States Government has been consistent about the steps that any government would need to take. Obviously, that’s premature at this point, given there’s just been an announcement about the creation of this government, and that process obviously hasn’t seen itself through at this point.
QUESTION: Was that a topic that Secretary of State Kerry discussed with PA President Abbas last week?
MS. PSAKI: I think we did a readout at that time, Said, and we made clear that they discussed a range of issues, including recent political developments. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that President Abbas would provide an update on that front.
QUESTION: Okay. Related now, there are – the Israelis are quite critical of U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, accusing him of all kinds of things, least of all is that he’s placing all the blame on the Israelis. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Ambassador Indyk’s speech just last week —
MS. PSAKI: — where he made clear that both sides had taken unhelpful steps. That’s his view. That’s the Secretary’s view. And I think he stated it pretty clearly in public.
QUESTION: I understand. But thereafter there were accusation that – in a private gathering or in a bar, whatever, a restaurant, he was telling his staff more vocally or more clearly that Israel bears the blame. Are you willing to step and stay that —
MS. PSAKI: I will tell you that that is – report is categorically false and there’s been no secret about what his position is on the unhelpful steps taken by both sides. He’s spoken publicly about them, and I would point people to that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you know what about that report is categorically false? That he – he wasn’t in the bar or he didn’t have a – what about it? He didn’t say the things? He was there but he didn’t say what was attributed to him? Or —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into too much detail, other than to say that he had a busy schedule that day. He was – arrived for just a few minutes and did not have the conversation that was outlined in the news reports.
QUESTION: Okay. But he was there. I mean, he gave the speech there, right? I mean, not in the bar, but he did give the talk —
MS. PSAKI: He did not have the conversation that was outlined in the reports.
QUESTION: Okay. So that’s the – okay.
QUESTION: Can I get —
QUESTION: Could you give us what the status of the team now is – I mean his team? Are they in the building? I asked you this last week, but —
MS. PSAKI: They’re in Washington. And as I think I said last week, and Ambassador Shapiro and CG Ratney remain on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. What are they doing in terms of pushing the peace process further or keeping it alive, so to speak?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re here because this remains a priority of the United States Government. I don’t have any other details on their daily work plans.
QUESTION: And how is the – just to stay on —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask – there’s reports out there that the Quartet is about to release a statement. Is that – on the Palestinian Government, on the idea —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I would point you to them. I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: Well, just because United States is actually one of the four members of the Quartet.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m not aware of that statement that’s coming out, so I don’t know the details.
QUESTION: And I wanted to go back to the talks between Tzipi Livni and President Abbas last week in London. At whose request did those talks happen?
MS. PSAKI: Between Livni and Abbas?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the parties. I can tell you that the United States played no part in either arranging or participating in this meeting, but I would point you to the parties.
QUESTION: Because apparently, according to the timeline, Minister Livni met with President Abbas after she had had spoken with – on Thursday with Secretary Kerry.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Again, the United States played no role in organizing the meeting or arranging it, so I’d point you to the parties.
QUESTION: So in the readout from the meeting between Secretary Kerry and Livni, there was no mention of the fact that she was planning to meet with President Abbas. It was a pretty anodyne statement that they’d —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — “both sides must take helpful steps,” et cetera, et cetera.
QUESTION: You’re agreeing that the statement was anodyne? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I’m just listening to what Jo is saying.
QUESTION: Got you.
QUESTION: So was this raised? Did the minister raise this with the Secretary, with Secretary Kerry during their talks in London, that she was planning to meet with President Abbas?
MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry was aware in advance, but again, played no role. The United States played no role, and I’m not going to get into any other level of detail. And I don’t think it should come as a surprise that we wouldn’t announce a meeting we weren’t involved in on behalf of the parties who were involved in it.
QUESTION: Sure. And then prior – on the evening before, on Wednesday night when he met with President Abbas, was this something that he suggested to President Abbas at the time?
MS. PSAKI: Again, we weren’t involved in any way in arranging the meeting or putting the meeting together. I don’t have any more details.
QUESTION: But it wasn’t raised on the Wednesday night?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details about their meeting.
QUESTION: Jen —
QUESTION: Are you disappointed in the prime minister’s reaction to the meeting, where he said that Livni could have the meeting, but she was going to represent herself, not the government. Is that a concern to you?
MS. PSAKI: Well obviously, Matt, we believe – I don’t have any particular comment in response to the prime minister’s comments, but we continue to believe, as we’ve said, there’s a door open to peace. It’s up to the parties to determine that path.
QUESTION: I’ve got two that are very – extremely brief. One, do you know anything about Israel denying permission for Oxfam workers to go to Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: I do not. I can check and see if we know any more about that.
QUESTION: All right. And just the other one is that the housing minister – Mr. Bennett, I believe – not the housing minister. Whatever he – Mr. Bennett, the member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet, has suggested a formal annexation of Area C and is pushing this forward. I’m presuming, given your past statements about this area, that that’s something that you would oppose. But I just wanted to make sure as I —
MS. PSAKI: That is a safe assumption. I haven’t discussed that specifically with our team, but that is a safe assumption.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you ask them to just find out if this is a concern, the possibility that he might push this idea forward, if this is a concern of the U.S.? And if it is, have you raised it with Prime Minister Netanyahu or –
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if there’s more to share on that front.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: More on the peace process?
QUESTION: One follow – yeah, just a quick follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The Israeli Foreign Minister Mr. Leiberman said that the Israelis must look elsewhere other than the PLO and the PA as Palestinian counterparts. Do you agree that the PA is no longer a partner in this process?
MS. PSAKI: Again, this is a process where there’s only been – I shouldn’t say “a process.” There’s only been an announcement about a process moving forward. We’re going to see that play its way through, so I don’t have any further comment than that.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’d like to ask —
QUESTION: If in fact they do – if in fact they go – if it’s tomorrow or if it’s whenever, will you have some kind of reaction to —
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, which piece?
QUESTION: A unity government.
MS. PSAKI: Oh. If there’s an announcement, I’m sure we’ll have a comment from here. Go ahead.