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Middle East Digest- December 2, 2010

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Washington, DC
December 2, 2010


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 December 2, 2010

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1:42 p.m. EST

QUESTION: So before we get into the – all those WikiLeaks questions, which you were having before – I’m curious to know as to why, given your concern about actions or statements that can cause problems or incite violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and your unprompted condemnation of a Palestinian claim to the Western wall the other day – that you didn’t open up with a condemnation or at least an expression of concern about the Israeli Government’s announcement today that, in fact, 625 new houses for Jewish people will be built in East Jerusalem, and also the comments made by Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, who said that much of the – that a lot of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiment is being sparked by Arab Israelis themselves, including former members of the Knesset --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: Can you explain why – why no --

MR. CROWLEY: I will not comment --

QUESTION: -- expression of that?

MR. CROWLEY: -- on Foreign Minister Lieberman’s comments. I have not seen them. We have had multiple conversations with the Israeli Government. We have expressed our concerns about such announcements. We’ve done this repeatedly over time. We’ve done so again. We continue our very earnest, ongoing efforts to work with the parties and see if we can’t create conditions for a return to negotiations, and certainly, as we’ve made clear over time, these kinds of announcements undermine the trust that is important to get the parties back into negotiations and to make progress.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just can you find out – or can you ask if there might be something forthcoming on Foreign Minister Lieberman’s statement, given that he is actually the foreign minister and the senior Palestinian official that you condemned the other day was the deputy information minister. There seems to be a bit of a –

QUESTION: Double standard?

QUESTION: There’s a bit of a difference here just in terms of seniority, going from the deputy

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Let me try – I have not seen the foreign minister’s – I understand what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Could NEA maybe pose the question? I mean, maybe you don’t have a problem with his statement.

MR. CROWLEY: I will take the question. I mean, just to put this in context, we had conversations with the Palestinian Authority about the other set of remarks. We gave the Palestinian Authority several days to make their own statements rebuking those remarks. When that was not forthcoming, we felt it was important to put our comments on the record. We will – I’ll check and see if there’s anything we want to say at this point on Foreign Minister Lieberman.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: More on Israel --

QUESTION: Well, wait. Just on the terms of the Palestinians, I understand that the consul general in Jerusalem met with Abbas today. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Daniel Rubinstein did meet with President Abbas. He meets with him on a regular basis. And I think it was just to keep him apprised on the – on our ongoing discussions with the Israelis.

QUESTION: Is there any progress in those discussions?

MR. CROWLEY: Our efforts are ongoing.

QUESTION: Just following up on that, the Palestinian official only told one of us that the U.S. Administration has informed them that the Israeli Government did not agree to a new settlement freeze. Did you see that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re not going – as we have said many, many times, we’re not going to give you a play by play. We have quiet conversations with both sides on the substance of the peace process. Those conversations are ongoing. And beyond that, we’re not going to get into details of what precisely was discussed.

QUESTION: Yet there is strong thinking developing in Pakistan or minds in Pakistan – people of Pakistan that Washington does interfere in Pakistani politics, or in the past, they have been doing so. Do you have any comments on that?

MR. CROWLEY: The United States very clearly supported a return to civilian government in Pakistan. We spoke openly. We spoke for the record. Everyone can go back and see clearly that the United States was encouraging Pakistan to move and to return to civilian rule, and we are gratified that Pakistan has done that. And we believe that Pakistan is stronger as a result. The United States Government didn’t dictate who the candidates were. The United States government didn’t dictate the result.

We are working closely with President Zardari and, of course, President Zardari is in his position not because the United States dictated it; because tragically his wife was killed while campaigning for a high office. We work effectively with Prime Minister Gilani. Prime Minister Gilani was not placed in this position by the United States. He was elected as a member of parliament and through the parliament – through the Pakistani political system.

We have an effective relationship with President Zardari, and that will continue. We have a close relationship with Prime Minister Gilani, and that will continue. We engage directly and frequently with Foreign Minister Qureshi. Those three individuals and others, they are serving the national interest of Pakistan. It is not for the United States to dictate who will be a president, prime minister, or a foreign minister. These are choices made within these countries, and we will work with the leaders that are chosen by the people of Pakistan, in this case, and anywhere where there is a democratic process that produces a government that we have the ability to work effectively with and on local, regional, and national issues.

QUESTION: P.J., are you --

QUESTION: Secretary Gates, during his press conference on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” said that the U.S. is an indispensible country and other nations work with us on three – for – because of three reasons: out of fear, out of respect, and out of need. Where will you place India and Pakistan in these?

MR. CROWLEY: We are building strategic relationships with both countries because they are important not just to our interests, but most importantly they’re – as you chart the future course of developments in the world, Pakistan and India will have an impact on those developments.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:37 p.m.)

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