QUESTION: Well, I mean, we’re generally interested in how it all went, what kinds of feedback you got from them, how confident you feel about the government forming soon. You’ve met Gantz before, I take it, and Ashkenazi as well before?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t know if I’ve met Ashkenazi before.

QUESTION: So this was the first time you were meeting him?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, well, so, he’s not really the foreign minister —

QUESTION: Yet.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yet.

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So in terms of protocol —

QUESTION: Protocol, okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — or whatever this isn’t really a get-to-know-you, though.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: He’s a really serious individual.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And the Secretary’s looking forward to working with him (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I sat in for a few minutes of that, but it basically was a one-on-one.

QUESTION: So is your impression they will get this government formed soon, in the next few days?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think there’s a sense of urgency, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. And then do you think they’ll proceed with annexation on July 1st?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think – listen, the Secretary has said on the record and very publicly we are working with the Israelis to implement the Vision for Peace. The Israelis are working through this. We’re supportive of their efforts. They’ve got a coalition government that has various strands. And I think it’s going to take them a while to come together with what they’re going to do.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But I do think that we should dispel the notion that we flew halfway around the world to talk about annexation. That’s been reported that we – incorrectly.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the – so, this was —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, the – that was not the purpose of the trip.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: This wasn’t the top line.

QUESTION: Okay, uh-huh.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And then we have other major priorities. I mean, start off with the Iranian threat, which we tend to sort of ignore it because it’s a constant.

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: But it’s actually severe and getting worse on some fronts, and the Iranians continue to make progress on the nuclear front, et cetera. So this is a growing concern of ours.

QUESTION: Yeah. Have there been some incidents lately that kind of increase that urgency about the Iranian threat?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, let’s see, I mean, the most obvious thing is that you see things oftentimes blowing up in Syria.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What appears to be increased Israeli operational tempo there and broadening its target set. It’s —

QUESTION: Israel broadening its target set?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I didn’t say it was – I said “appears to be.” (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Appears to be. Okay, okay. You’re on background anyway, so – (laughter) —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: But yeah, the – I think – read The New York Times. I mean, they —

QUESTION: No.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No. She’s LA Times. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: But —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: You have to say, “Read the LA Times.”

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Wait, doesn’t everybody want – read The Wall Street Journal – (laughter) – or The Jerusalem Post or Haaretz?

QUESTION: Yeah. Sure.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, they point out – every day they have a scoop on what’s gotten (inaudible) in Syria. And it’s – if you’ve been following this over a long period of time, it’s increasing.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you guys make any progress on, I don’t know – I know – I guess the timeline for snapback is sort of baked in because you’re picking at two, the arms —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The renewal of the arms embargo.

QUESTION: The renewal of the arms embargo. So is there a lot of discussion about that, any changes?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it’s – always, we’re coordinating, we’re telling them what we’re thinking about about different issues. So I don’t want to get into the – the details.

QUESTION: And then the —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But I think that – but the snapback stuff is important. I mean, the Secretary – was it last week when we were at the podium – I mean, he’s made it pretty clear that that’s —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it’s —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: — that that is his focus between now and —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, it’s appropriate.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s getting the Security Council to move on this.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, it’s a priority. I mean, it’s a priority for —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. It’s a big priority.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — for us and I think for —

QUESTION: Yeah, the prime minister mentioned it today.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. I think for anybody who is out there concerned about Iranian behavior, that the prospect of them being able to purchase – they’re already being able to purchase all these others – avoiding sanctions and having people flout international law. And if there is not this type of regime, you just imagine how much worse it’s going to be. And of course, they export of lot of these weapons to their allies and their regional proxies, who, once again, use these weapons to attack member-states in good standing of the United Nations like Saudi Arabia, et cetera.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So yes, it’s extremely dangerous.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have more on Iran?

QUESTION: Not on Iran, no.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about COVID, because that was one of the big —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s huge.

QUESTION: The Israelis have done really well —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.

QUESTION: — in containing the virus. They’ve got really cheap ventilators. Did you guys talk about any more concrete exchange of —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We talked about what we’re doing together, how we —

QUESTION: — resources and materials?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — and how we can cooperate on the things we can do regionally together and further areas of cooperation. That was a topic of conversation. But it also sort of led to a conversation about China’s role.

QUESTION: Oh, the unnamed country. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Which obviously is – and so the Secretary doesn’t have a problem with people having relationships with China or having trade with China, but I think COVID sort of highlights the dangers of dealing with states that are not transparent, that don’t have fair trade practices, that really leverage and torque their trade to leverage certain things out of their trade partners. Aside from sort of debt traps that we’re seeing, we’ve seen in Djibouti, elsewhere, right, where you have to give China a 99-year lease on a port – to other states. So a region where they’re really in debt and it’s causing major issues with the economy.

But in particular there’s the issue of strategic investment, that there is no such thing as a privately owned, independent company in China, right. If you use Huawei, if you use any type of company that has access to your DNA, that DNA becomes property and that information becomes property of the Chinese Communist Party. And so that’s a security issue. And so whether it’s the large infrastructure projects, things they can do to those infrastructure projects, there are all kinds of dangers, and we – I think it’s important for us as allies, strategic partners to be able to discuss the type of threats and the types of ways to mitigate those kind of threats.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: To points on that: I would look back – I think it was last year during Sukkot when we were in Israel and we did – he did a – the Secretary did an interview with – oh, what’s his name from the Jerusalem Post? If you google it and look it up, last year he did a pretty lengthy interview profile-type thing, and at the end of it the Secretary – it was Katz. Maybe that was his name. Anyway —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: With the foreign minister.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, no, no. The reporter.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, okay, Yaakov.

QUESTION: With a reporter.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yaakov, Yaakov. Yeah. So if you look sort of at the end of the story, he talked about how he was surprised that the Secretary said well, you didn’t bring up China. So anyway, you may – just a quick google and you can find that piece from last year.

QUESTION: Sukkot or Purim?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, it was during Sukkot.

QUESTION: During Sukkot?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I remember because we had the thing.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The other thing I would say that – to back [Senior State Department Official One] up, what’s interesting to me is how similar this conversation is whether we’re in Israel or England —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: This is throughout the Gulf as well. Throughout the Gulf.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: — Portugal or anywhere we go, it’s pretty – the Secretary’s message is pretty consistent.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, right. All of our allies —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — that we talk to about this. And the COVID – really, I think, provides the opportunity to see it because of how just problematic their behavior has been throughout this – throughout this whole process. You need to look at – we need to look at supply chains. We need to look at – because they’re not a reliable partner.

QUESTION: And there is a specific project I think that’s been reported on. I don’t know if you guys discussed that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I don’t want to get into specific projects. But yeah, I mean, (inaudible) project. The United States has Sisyphus and we have —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: CFIUS.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — CFIUS, and we have FIRRMA, we have the Export Control Act, and all those things together create a regime that is – that helps – it’s mandatory and it forces small reviews, big reviews of whatever type things you want to do, and we think that it would be helpful if our – if our allies had these (inaudible) as well.

QUESTION: So, I mean, I guess the question to both of you and just the uniformity of this message of – I know that the Huawei and 5G has been a huge thing, but now this – would you say that since COVID it has become more a part of the Secretary’s portfolio of saying hey, have your trade relationship with China, but when you get into sensitive stuff, or was even – did that precede it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’ll speak from the perspective of having – until all this started, being lucky enough to travel over a year and around the world with him and being in not every but most of his meetings. He’s been talking about this almost – I can’t think of a specific meeting that I was in with him where he didn’t bring this up. It’s been something that he’s been building, saying, for a long time. I think that because of the – because the CCP made the decision during COVID to use their officials to be so overt with the disinformation, that we have – we have seen I think the world pay much more attention to the stuff that you guys were asking me about and the three of us were paying attention to – Huawei, 5G, Hikvision – remember, we were talking about that last year at the podium, and I think that all of that is – it’s just now the world is paying attention to what he’s been saying for almost two years as Secretary of State.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Special attention for high-tech.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Et cetera. They don’t – in addition to unfair trade practices, other types of exploitations, predatory loaning. You have just total disregard for intellectual property, right. So all of these go together and – but I think we really have to think about that. I mean, you should take a look, I did a whole interview on this with Globes, an Israeli publication, when I was in Israel last in, like, January or February. So we’ve been talking about it, but yeah, it’s separate.

QUESTION: Do you think you’re having success? Are you being persuasive with this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think we have a – we are – we’ve been allies with Israel for a long time. Our strategic relationship is getting closer every day, whether this is economically, whether this is in terms of military, intelligence sharing, across the board. It’s getting – and we have a relationship that’s mature enough to talk about difficult subjects, so I think the message is getting through.

QUESTION: Is getting through, but you don’t see them, like, desisting or getting rid of any projects yet or stopping bilateral —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think the message is getting through.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: And just on – back to Iran real quick. Have you guys, with COVID, noticed a significant change in behavior in the region? I mean, are they hamstrung because of COVID or are they not?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, you saw the President’s – the tweet about that we’re going to fill these Iranian boats full of lead and the harassment.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: This is in the middle of COVID.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Is that what he said?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. Well, almost. (Laughter.) I’m not —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t – let’s – we’ll refer you back to the specific words of the President’s tweet.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I was paraphrasing, but —

QUESTION: It surprised me. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t think he’s (inaudible). Anyway. Please, reference the President’s exact tweet.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: But the point is I think the Iranians are still certainly provocative. Maybe in some places slow down operational tempo a little bit, certain countries where the sort of proxies – there are curfews so it is hard for their proxy militias to go out at night and try and kill Americans. But they still go, and the threat is still there, and they’re still planning and they’re still shooting. Their allies in Iraq continue to shoot rockets at U.S. facilities. We saw this at the BDSC, the Baghdad Support – Diplomatic Support Center, at the airport, for example, pretty recently. So these things are ongoing.

QUESTION: I wanted to return to annexation for a second, but looking at it regionally. How worried are you guys about what the reaction might be in Jordan, Egypt, even the Gulf countries? They are not happy about the prospect of annexation. Is this something that you talk about, warn the Israelis, talk to the Arabs? How are you dealing with that? How worried are you?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, I think the Israelis are aware of how these things play in the neighborhood. We talk to our partners as well. I think Israel will make its calculations. It will talk to its allies as well.

QUESTION: Israel will make its calculations?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. Israel will make its calculations. The other is a plan on the table, and they have to – they are going to work within the President’s vision. And we have about – yeah, we have seen, taken note of the Jordanians’ statements, of course —

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — and other tweets from the Gulf.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be a shame, though, to lose all of that – at least that relationship that exists with Jordan and with Egypt, countries that recognize Israel even though it’s not been perfect relationship?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So I think that – I think Israel is very savvy on how it deals with what are its increasingly productive ties with its Arab partners.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That was a good line, [Senior State Department Official One].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: All right, I think we’re up at 15 minutes, almost. So do we have anything else?

QUESTION: Anything else?

QUESTION: I think – I mean, we’ve gone over the U.S. Government perspective on what Israel decides to do, and they haven’t said anything yet, and so you’re still working through that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I think —

QUESTION: There’s no – there’s no encouragement either way?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I said what I said.

QUESTION: But you’ve been clear – [Senior State Department Official Two] clarified this again today – that you do want to see talks between Israel and the Palestinians as part of this process?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think yeah, that’s always been the Vision for Peace. It lays out a vision.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: You can ask the Israelis.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, it’s in —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Next. Would you like to do an interview next?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, and it’s an opportunity, right. But well before the Vision for Peace, the Palestinians haven’t engaged with us, never mind the Israelis. Some sort of security issues —

QUESTION: Security issues, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — yes, but on the political, on these sort of meta issues of how they’re going to go forward and hash things out, the Palestinians haven’t showed up. And it’s our view that it’s counterproductive. It’s just unhelpful. And they’ve got something on the table; if you don’t like it, let’s talk about it.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future