The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.
From the Daily Press Briefing of May 29, 2009
QUESTION: Related to Ambassador Holbrooke’s visit, can you just expand a bit on the reasons why he’s going now? Is there any concern about a lack of – or that there could be problems with political support in Pakistan for the operations due to the displacements?
MR. WOOD: Well, I think Ambassador Holbrooke wants to get a sense of how things are on the ground and how we can better, you know, formulate our own assistance with regard to, you know, the IDPs and others who have been affected by what’s been going on in Swat. But that’s really all I know at this point on it. And as I said, he plans to leave shortly and he looks forward to the visit.
QUESTION: Has Pakistan requested for additional aid from U.S. (inaudible)?
MR. WOOD: I don’t think anything beyond what we’ve talked about over the last week or so. I don’t --
QUESTION: It was 110 plus 67, right?
MR. WOOD: That’s right. I don’t have – I haven’t received any additional information on that. But you might want to check with the Pakistanis to see if they’re planning to make any additional requests.
Anything else? Okay, thank you all.
QUESTION: Wait – I’m sorry, sorry, I wanted to change the subject.
MR. WOOD: Sure.
QUESTION: The New York Times reports today on a series of steps that unnamed officials say the Administration is considering against Israel if it does not agree to a full settlement freeze of the sort that Secretary Clinton described last week. The steps include the possibility of tempering U.S. support for Israel at the United Nations, at not automatically vetoing Security Council resolutions that Israel objects to, at using the bully pulpit to make clear the President and the Administration’s unhappiness over continued settlement activity.
Are any or all of those steps under consideration?
MR. WOOD: Look, what I can say, Arshad, is that, as you know, the President and the Secretary have made clear that all the parties have responsibilities to fulfill to give Middle East peace efforts a chance to succeed. And U.S. and Israeli officials are in intensive discussions on how this can best be achieved.
As you know, we’ve long worked to ensure that Israel is treated fairly at the United Nations. That will continue. And as you know, Israel is a close friend and ally, and we remain committed to its security. And as I said, that – you know, that will continue. I’m not going to comment on this New York Times report, but I think the President and Secretary have spoken very clearly to where we are with regard to the settlement question.
QUESTION: Can you say that you are not considering any such punitive actions?
MR. WOOD: Well, you know, Arshad, I certainly wouldn’t want to tell you one way or another what we’re engaged in terms of our discussions with Israel. I mean, there have been a number of Israeli officials that have come to the United States. The Secretary has been in the region. Senator Mitchell, as you know, has spent a lot of time there. We’re working this issue. And as I said, both parties have obligations under the Roadmap that they need to live up to, and we are going to do what we can to help the parties do what they need to do.