At the State Department briefing yesterday, the United States once again described the post-unification Palestinian government as a “technocratic” government. I.e., it is not about to launch violent attacks on Israel. But the reporters’ questions were about the Israeli announcement of 1500 more settlements. When is the U.S. going to put any teeth in its opposition to Israeli colonization of the West Bank? (And what would it matter anyway at this point, when the West Bank is carved up like grandma’s peach pie at the picnic…)
Marie Harf expresses disappointment, and then– zippo. We’re not going to do what the European Union has done, and call for the decision to be reversed, she says. By the end of the video above, from 35:00 to 38:00 or so, she says that the U.S. is pushing Israel privately on settlements, but she grows impatient with the reporters’ impatience with American inaction.
We are deeply disappointed that – with today’s settlement announcements, as we have consistently said these actions are unhelpful and counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome. Our position is longstanding and unchanged. As you know, we continue to view settlements as illegitimate and urge both parties to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension and undercut the efforts to find a path forward to a two-state solution. It is very difficult to understand how these settlements contribute to peace.
MS. HARF: Yep. Jo.
QUESTION: On the – still on this.
MS. HARF: And then I’ll – and then I’m coming back to you. Go ahead. Yep.
QUESTION: Still on the settlements. Your counterparts in the EU have actually gone a step further and called on Israel to reverse this decision. Would you support that?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to use those words. I think I’ll stick with: We’re deeply disappointed; again, difficult to understand how these contribute to peace, and would urge both sides to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension.
QUESTION: And Hanan Ashrawi, who’s a member of the PLO, as I’m sure you’re aware, has said that the Palestinians are actually going to seek UN intervention on this. Is that a move that you would support?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. I don’t have anything else, I think, probably to comment on than what I just said.
QUESTION: Because saying that you’re deeply disappointed, it’s a fair enough reaction, but it’s what you say after every single announcement of settlements.
MS. HARF: We are nothing if not consistent.
QUESTION: How can you move forward beyond just words and actions and actually try and encourage the Israelis not to do this?
MS. HARF: We have the conversation privately with the Israeli Government on this issue all the time and do believe that neither side should take these kind of unhelpful steps. So if there’s more to share, I’m happy to. I just don’t have anything further on this issue.
I’m going back —
QUESTION: A question on settlements still.
MS. HARF: Yes, and then I’m going to —
QUESTION: You just said that the State Department had been consistent on the issue of settlements.
MS. HARF: Longstanding and unchanged.
QUESTION: Yeah. And – but it seems it’s not actually fruitful in any way because settlements keep on coming. Is it time to change course on this consistency and policy that seems to be unsuccessful so far?
MS. HARF: Well, we stand up very clearly and say what we believe, and we’re not going to stop saying what we believe. We say it privately to the Israelis as well. So on this issue, again, we will continue working with them. We will continue engaging on the topic and pushing it with them publicly and privately.
QUESTION: My question is: Can you —
MS. HARF: Are we changing our policy?
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Not changing your policy. But can you show me, like – just give me one example where these talks and this consistency actually helped in any way over the issue of the settlements?
MS. HARF: Well, broadly speaking, we know we have a lot more work to do. Obviously we know where the talks are at the moment; they’re suspended, they’re not happening. So this is part of a larger conversation, quite frankly, about how we move the peace process forward, if that’s possible now, and what each side can do to move that forward. So it’s part of a much broader conversation that we’re having with both sides.
QUESTION: But you don’t have, like, specific case where your engagement with the Israelis, where – was —
MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything further for you on this topic.
Note that the Palestinians say they may go to the United Nations. Giving Obama an opportunity to abstain on rather than veto a Security Council resolution against settlements.
Update: Since I posted (and said that J Street is silent) J Street has issued a statement that is emphatic in its understanding that Israel’s actions threaten its liberal Zionist dream. What will J Street do about these endless insults? It says the U.S. must speak out more strongly. From the statement:
J Street strongly opposes the Government of Israel’s decision to move ahead with 3,300 new housing units in the West Bank. Not just this announcement – but the ongoing program of expanding Israeli settlement beyond the Green Line – demands a stern US response that goes beyond routine statements of disapproval.
The United States has been issuing such statements for decades with no appreciable impact on the settler movement’s drive to expand its presence in the West Bank…
The time has come to recognize and deal with settlement expansion as the existential threat it is to the very core of Zionism, putting at risk Israel’s survival as the secure and democratic national home for the Jewish people.