September 15, 2011

State Department “Clarifies” Palestinians' UN Bid

Not really...

MR. TONER: Our approach is to get the sides back to the negotiating table. As I said, we’re engaged very intensively on the ground. I just ran through the meetings. And our approach has not changed.

QUESTION: But do you see going to the UN as anathema to an approach in getting them – why can’t it be embraced as part of an approach to get them back to the table instead of being viewed as an enemy of getting them back to the table?

MR. TONER: Well, Matt, again, what we’ve tried to be clear all along here is that our focus, and we believe the parties’ focus, should be in direct negotiations because it’s only by dealing with these issues through direct negotiations that they’re going to reach a settlement. So one-off actions in New York don’t accomplish anything at the end of the day.

QUESTION: But why can’t you -

MR. TONER: We’re going to continue to work today, tomorrow, through New York to get the parties back to the negotiating table. But our position all along – I don’t know how it could be more clear – is that we think these -

QUESTION: It can’t be any more clear. I’m not asking you what your position is.

MR. TONER: We think these -

QUESTION: I’m asking why you lack the creativity to use this as leverage to get them back to the negotiating table, instead of trying to fight a losing battle in which you’re going to be the only – you’re going to be isolated, the Israelis are going to be isolated, because if they go to the General Assembly, they’re going to win.

MR. TONER: Precisely because -

QUESTION: So why don’t -

MR. TONER: - because we think it’s -

QUESTION: Why isn’t there anyone in this Administration that has the brainpower, the creativity, to use this as a positive thing to build momentum instead of regarding it as completely a negative thing?

MR. TONER: Because it’s counterproductive.


QUESTION: But that’s -

QUESTION: Why is it - it’s counterproductive to you. To the Palestinians, it gives them some kind of hope, some kind of confidence, that when they do sit down – let me finish – when they do sit down at the negotiating table, that they have more leverage than some kind of nonentity that they’re treated as now.

MR. TONER: But this doesn’t – again, we’re talking past each other to a certain extent. It’s – at the end of the day, it doesn’t get them anything at all. It doesn’t resolve any of the core issues that need to be resolved in order for a two-state solution, two states living side by side in peace and security.

QUESTION: What you’re -

MR. TONER: That’s our goal. That’s the goal of the Palestinians.

QUESTION: But you’re -

MR. TONER: That’s the goal of the Israelis. That’s what we want to see here.

QUESTION: But I think what -

MR. TONER: So – sorry – action in New York doesn’t get us there.

QUESTION: Okay. But what you’re doing isn’t getting them there any closer either, and they feel if they could get -

MR. TONER: Well, you’re right. We can’t – at the end of the day, as we’ve said many times, it’s up to the parties to make the hard choices and get back to the negotiating table. Our envoys are there to try to help that process move forward, but ultimately, it’s up to them.

QUESTION: Well, but -

QUESTION: Can I clarify something?

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can I -

MR. TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So for the last X many years, you’ve been trying to get these negotiations back on track. They’re not getting back on track. They see this as an alternative to moving closer towards recognition of a Palestinian state. I mean, why should they be penalized for taking steps that are – they feel are in their national interest, just as -

MR. TONER: Well, I’m not sure anybody is penalizing them. Again, what we’re trying to say is – the President stated this, I believe, yesterday – is anything that helps create an atmosphere for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, we’re for.

QUESTION: Well, the Palestinians -

MR. TONER: Anything that prevents that from happening, we oppose.

QUESTION: Okay. But in your view, it prevents it. But the Palestinians -

MR. TONER: In our view, we believe this is not a good idea. Yes.

QUESTION: As Matt said, the Palestinians want to use this as a pretext for negotiations.
There is talk about the Palestinians, any resolution that they introduce would talk about this as a kind of pretext to negotiations.

MR. TONER: And we disagree. We think it’s counterproductive. Kirit.

QUESTION: Can I ask you this? You said that your position has not changed. With it now out publicly that they plan to go to the UN Security Council, would you say that the United States still plans to veto?

MR. TONER: We’ve been very clear on that issue. Yes.

QUESTION: Are you against -

QUESTION: Is that still -


MR. TONER: No. I’m sorry, Kirit. Yeah, we’ve been very clear, yes.

QUESTION: Are you against all resolutions introduced by the Palestinians at the UN, or just the full seeking of statehood?

MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going get out in front of the process -

QUESTION: Well, there are a lot of alternatives -

MR. TONER: David Hale and Dennis Ross are in the region. Our focus remains on getting them back to the negotiating table.

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