What’s the US saying about Palestine, today? Nov. 5 edition
At the U.S. State Department press briefing on Thursday, a few questions about Palestine and Israel were discussed with spokesperson John Kirby.
In Secretary John Kerry’s attempt to ease tensions in Jerusalem, the instillations of cameras to monitor the Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif was agreed to be implemented by Israel and Jordan. The U.S. expects it to be made available to the public 24/7.
A reporter asked if Kirby had any comment about the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly appointed spokesman, Ran Baratz. Baratz made “offensive” remarks about President Barack Obama and Secretary Kerry.
“Allow me to be harsh, contrary to my moderate habits,” Baratz wrote in the March 3 post. “Obama’s reference to Netanyahu’s speech – this is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western and liberal countries. And it comes, of course, alongside much tolerance and understanding toward Islamic anti-Semitism. So much tolerance and understanding that they are willing to give [Iran] an atom[ic bomb],” Baratz said, according to Haaretz
Last year Baratz commented on Kerry’s favor of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
“This is the time to wish the secretary of state good luck, and to count down the days with the hope that someone over there at the State Department will wake up and begin to see the world through the eyes of a person whose mental age exceeds 12,” he said.
QUESTION: Moving on, let’s go to – in the Middle East. One of the major planks of the Secretary’s platform that he announced to reduce tensions between Israelis and the Palestinians was the installation of cameras to monitor the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary 24/7. At the time that it was announced, he said that they would be hopefully up and running soon, and then in subsequent comments you talked about how this video would be available to everyone live, 24/7. Now there are reports out of Jordan, which is an integral part of – an integral player in this, that not only will there not be any cameras in the two mosques up there but that the video will not be seen anywhere except in Amman, and that it could take another six weeks for this to actually come to that. Is this okay with you guys? Is this – does this – is this in keeping with the agreement that you thought had been reached?
MR KIRBY: Well, what we understand is that Israel and Jordan still remain engaged on this. And as for the specifics of how it’s going to go, I’d refer you to them. But the Secretary continues to believe that this is an important component of increasing transparency and thereby helping to enhance security. But as to where the cameras are going to be mounted and how they’re going to be connected, I mean, I would point you to officials in Israel and Jordan to speak to that. It’s our understanding that technical teams from both countries will be working out the details. It is still our expectation that the video footage would be livestreamed and available 24/7 to the public.
MR KIRBY: That’s still our expectation.
QUESTION: Okay. So it would be a problem for you guys should that change and should the video only be available to certain people.
MR KIRBY: We would very much like to see, as the Secretary said back in Amman a few weeks ago – we’d like to see it available to the public 24/7.
QUESTION: Right. So it would be a problem if it wasn’t for you, right?
MR KIRBY: That’s – our expectation is that it’s going to be available to the public by —
QUESTION: I understand that. But your expectation seems to have been contradicted a bit today.
MR KIRBY: Well, I haven’t seen these particular comments.
MR KIRBY: So rather than rebut comments I haven’t seen, I’m just going to tell you what our expectation is.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the same topic a little bit?
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: So we’re a bit confused. So the videos by themselves would not be okay with you? You would have – you want the Jordanians to come through on the deal that you concluded with them, which is installing cameras in the two mosques, correct?
MR KIRBY: It’s not a deal that we concluded with the Jordanians, Said. It is – it’s an arrangement that Israel and Jordan arrived at, obviously one supported by Secretary Kerry – very supportive of it. And we still would like to see these cameras installed and in use as soon as possible. Nothing’s changed about that. But this has to be done by – it has to be worked out through technical teams from both countries. They’ve got to work out the modalities of it, and it’s our expectation that they will.
QUESTION: Do you think that the Jordanian king basically knuckled under pressure by a larger Palestinian population in Jordan? Do you think that he basically —
MR KIRBY: In what way?
QUESTION: In – because they protested this. They thought that the cameras would only serve Israel’s security – intelligence gathering systems —
MR KIRBY: Your question presumes that there’s been some change in policy or decision by Jordan unilaterally with respect to this, and I’m not aware of any change in the plan to install and to use these cameras, as was discussed a few weeks ago. I’m not aware that there’s been any change. So your question about whether he knuckled under – I mean, you’re using it in the past tense.
MR KIRBY: Again, I don’t know that there’s been such a decision. And as I said to Matt, it’s still our expectation that these cameras will be installed, hopefully very, very soon, and be in use very, very soon and be available to the public 24/7.
QUESTION: I have a couple more questions about the Palestinian issue, if I may. One, the Israelis are holding back on returning the bodies of Palestinians killed for whatever reason, but also the Palestinians are making some maybe wild claims that the Israelis are harvesting organs and so on. Have you heard anything about that? Was that brought to your attention —
MR KIRBY: I’ve seen the – I’ve seen some press coverage of comments to that effect. The only thing I would say – and you know, Said, I’ve tried to hold the line on this – I’m not going to get into parsing every word and every bit of rhetoric. What – I would just go back to what I’ve said before, is we want to see all inflammatory rhetoric on all sides stop so that we can get to a place where calm is restored and the violence is ended.
QUESTION: And finally, I have one last question. Seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a spokesman who has basically made allegations that the president – President Obama was anti-Semitic and so on. Is that something that you – I mean, do you have any comment on that?
MR KIRBY: Yeah, we’ve seen reports of Mr. Baratz’s previous comments about U.S. officials. We understand those comments were made in his private capacity. His comments about U.S. officials, including the President and Secretary Kerry, we believe were troubling and offensive. We obviously expect government officials from any country, especially our closest allies, to speak respectfully and truthfully about senior U.S. government officials. The Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, and we understand that the prime minister will be reviewing this appointment when he returns from his visit to the United States. And I would refer you to the Government of Israel for any additional comment.
QUESTION: That’s an interesting response, given what your colleague at the White House had to say, which was basically we want to stay out of this and noted that the person in question had apologized for the remarks. Your colleague, Josh Earnest, said that they were aware of the apology and thought that an apology was fully warranted.
MR KIRBY: And we would agree, certainly.
QUESTION: Right. But are you suggesting that you would like to see him – by saying that you understand the prime minister is going to review this nomination, are you saying that you think that perhaps he should rescind the nomination, that it’s a bad choice?
MR KIRBY: I didn’t say – no, I didn’t say that. I said that I’m – all I did was repeat what the prime minister told Secretary Kerry, which was it is his intention to review the appointment when he returns from the United States.
MR KIRBY: But I completely agree with Mr. Earnest and his characterization about the apology being warranted.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Kerry call Prime Minister Netanyahu specifically because of this appointment?
MR KIRBY: They – I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu initiated this particular call. I know this was a topic of it. I don’t know – I can’t say whether they discussed other issues.
QUESTION: This seems to be a recurring theme among minute members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet.
MR KIRBY: Minute members?
QUESTION: Members —
MR KIRBY: Members.
QUESTION: — of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet, making – by name – disparaging remarks about senior U.S. officials. Does this cause you any concern?
MR KIRBY: Well —
QUESTION: And conversely, does it cause you concern that there are – seem to be numerous American officials speaking on background who have been disparaging of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli government officials? Is this indicative of the poor state of relations between the two countries?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have the history of every comment spoken by people on either side, but that aside, obviously name-calling and insults, certainly, aimed at individuals doesn’t do anything to help advance and deepen the relationship, which is where Secretary Kerry wants it to go. And it was clear to him that that’s where Prime Minister Netanyahu wants things to go, too. And so our focus is on that. But it’s – we learn in kindergarten about name-calling, and it’s simply not a polite thing to do. And it’s certainly not helpful when you’ve got – excuse me – you got bigger fish to fry.
Sorry, my voice is going here.
QUESTION: It is going. But I’d say it’s striking that you would say that, considering that that seems to be in itself a bit of name-calling, no? I mean, one of the things that the new Israeli spokesman has apologized for is saying that Secretary Kerry’s – his – he’s got the – a pre-teen – his thoughts are like a 12-year-old.
MR KIRBY: No, no, no.
QUESTION: Now you’re talking about kindergarteners here.
MR KIRBY: I’m just talking about – it’s a rule you learn when you’re a very young child about the – about trying to avoid name-calling. And again, it’s not helpful. But we’re not focused on this, Matt.
MR KIRBY: We’re focused on the relationship and moving it forward. And the Secretary was grateful for the conversation he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu. And as far as we’re concerned, we’re looking forward to his visit here to the United States and to spending time working on issues that really do matter.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. So this chapter is closed as far as you’re concerned?
MR KIRBY: As far as we’re concerned, yeah