Daily Press Briefing
June 18, 2014
- Kidnapped Teens / Abbas Comments
- Privacy Waiver Signed
1:18 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Palestinian and Israeli —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — issues. As the search for the three teenagers goes into its sixth day, the Israelis are arresting hundreds of Palestinians, rounding up some or re-arresting in some cases many of the ones that were released. They’re having a clampdown, a lockdown. It’s really causing a very difficult humanitarian condition. Are you talking with the Israelis to sort of lighten – but I asked you this yesterday. Are you asking them to lighten up their heavy hand in their search?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’ve been in touch with both the Israelis and the Palestinians throughout the course of the last several days since these teenagers were kidnapped. We know this is a difficult time obviously on the ground. We’ve urged continued security cooperation between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the search for the kidnapped teenagers. We were encouraged by President Abbas’s strong statement to the Arab and Islamic foreign ministers today in Saudi Arabia. But – and certainly as the search continues and in our conversations, we urge both sides to exercise restraint and avoid the types of steps that could destabilize the situation. And that’s a message that we are conveying in all of our conversations as well.
QUESTION: So it would be more prudent for the Israelis to sort of search selectively and work and coordinate with the Palestinians rather than subject the whole Palestinian population to collective punishment?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our understanding is that there is security cooperation that’s ongoing —
MS. PSAKI: — and we encourage that to continue.
QUESTION: Well, wait. So I’m going to re-raise the questions I asked yesterday, which he kind of got – what – you do not believe at this moment that what the Israelis – that the Israeli operation to free – to find and free these teenagers is – amounts to collective punishment of Palestinians in the West Bank? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: So no. But you have expressed concern to the Israelis that – I just want to make sure I understand. Have you expressed to the Israelis concern that an operation might become some form of collective punishment?
MS. PSAKI: I would not state it in those terms. We’ve – know this is a difficult and sensitive time and we’ve urged both sides to exercise restraint.
QUESTION: In the Secretary’s statement from Sunday he talked about how there are many signs that point to Hamas involvement in this.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is that – are you now confident that Hamas is responsible for this, as confident as the Israelis say they are?
MS. PSAKI: No conclusion has been made on our end since the statement on Sunday, so we remain in the same place we were in the Secretary’s statement.
QUESTION: So you do not know or you do know that these teenagers are being held by Palestinian militants?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any other independent information.
QUESTION: Okay. You said that you had offered assistance to Israel.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has that happened? Do you know? And do you know – if it has or even if it hasn’t – what specific kind of assistance you have offered?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details. I’m happy to see if it’s been accepted or if there are any specifics about what we may be able to offer on this front in the search for the three teenagers.
QUESTION: All right. And then I just want to draw a fine point of it. Is the U.S. – is the Administration concerned or not concerned about the Israeli operation and the impact that it’s having on the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: I think we recognize this is an incredibly sensitive —
MS. PSAKI: — and difficult circumstance on the ground, and we feel all sides should exercise restraint. So —
QUESTION: And thus far you believe that all sides have exercised restraint? Is that —
MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t say all sides should exercise restraint if we felt all sides were at this point.
QUESTION: Oh. Okay. So which side, or maybe both have not —
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have much more to add on this particular topic, Matt.
QUESTION: I – well, but it sounds as though you – you’re not convinced that – it sounds as though you think that either one side or both sides have been acting without restraint.
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s just important, given the circumstances, that they do moving forward. And I’m going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about —
MS. PSAKI: Said.
QUESTION: The spokesman for Hamas said today, to the suggestion that they kidnapped these young Israelis, it’s stupid. Doesn’t that amount to sort of denying that they have done it?
MS. PSAKI: They may have. There’s obviously an investigation going on. There’s lots of accusations. I don’t have any other conclusion from here.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Can I ask if you have a privacy waiver for the – one of the teenagers?
MS. PSAKI: We do, yes. So we can confirm that one of the kidnapped was an American citizen.
QUESTION: Which one?
MS. PSAKI: I believe his name has been reported. I don’t have it in front of me right now.
QUESTION: And what is the – is it the Consulate General in Jerusalem or the Embassy in Tel Aviv that’s involved in trying to provide consular services to the family and —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m happy to check and see which entity on the ground is in touch with the family. But we certainly are.
QUESTION: In your opinion, has Israel taken advantage of the situation to sort of break – tear down the infrastructure for this national unity government in its infancy?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have much more to add on that front, Said.
QUESTION: On this at all, I just want to make sure that – yesterday, again, you were asked this question as well.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But there’s – numerous Israeli officials have said that the U.S. decision to work with and continue to fund the Palestinian government, the new unity government, is – contributes – contributed to this incident with the three – is it – am I correct in thinking that you still would reject such an allegation?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, that is correct.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have a new topic? Are we done?
QUESTION: Oh, could I have one more on Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Lesley.
QUESTION: Sorry, I was —
MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The mother of Alan Gross has passed away.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And his wife’s come out and called again on the U.S. to secure – to do everything it can to secure his release, saying that she didn’t think – she was worried what he might do, that he might do something drastic. Are there any – given – what’s the latest development? Any new efforts made to try for his release?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say first that we of course express our deepest and sincerest condolences to Mr. Gross and his family on their loss. We obviously feel it is a tragedy that he was unable to be home in the United States at his mother’s bedside for her passing. We’ve urged the Cuban Government to grant Mr. Gross a humanitarian furlough so that he can travel to the United States and be with his family during this time of mourning, and we’ve made very clear that this is a strong priority for us.
QUESTION: Was that made today, that request?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a specific timing, but it’s obviously recent, given her death today.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but in fact, haven’t you been asking – yeah, you’ve been asking for this for some time —
MS. PSAKI: We have, but in —
QUESTION: — but not just —
MS. PSAKI: — but specifically as it relates to returning home to —
QUESTION: For a funeral.
MS. PSAKI: — be with his family during this time of mourning.
QUESTION: Right. But I’m trying to figure out if this is separate from – have you been asking for a temporary furlough in the past, or just for his complete release?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been asking for his release, as you know.
MS. PSAKI: But in these circumstances, we think that immediately —
QUESTION: So this —
MS. PSAKI: — this is – would be a gesture that they should grant.
QUESTION: So this is a new request for him to be allowed to leave prison, come to the States, be with his family for the mourning period and funeral possibly, but then he would go back?
MS. PSAKI: That is what a furlough is. Yes.
QUESTION: I understand. So that – and you’re okay with that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we would like him to be released. That is what we’ve been pressing for for some time. But the death of his mother – the tragic death of his mother is a recent event and one we’re —
QUESTION: Do you have to provide some guarantees that you would ensure that he would return?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into any greater level of detail on that front.
QUESTION: Jen, I wondered if I could ask a question about Libya. Are you aware that some 40 Egyptian workers – oil workers – have been kidnapped in Libya? And some are tying it to the apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khatallah.
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports, Said. I’m happy to look into them.