Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 5/20/2011
See below for an answer to a question (marked with an asterisk) posed in the briefing that required follow up.
* Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg was in the region and spoke with President Abbas.
2:27 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for waiting. We pushed the briefing back, obviously, to allow for the President’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel to wrap up, for the pool spray. I don't have any announcements, but I will begin with questions.
Q Thank you. I guess, coming out of this meeting, what a lot of us are wondering is what was actually accomplished between Obama and Netanyahu. There was a lot of talk, a lot of rhetoric about the commitment to peace, but in terms of actual substance, particularly on the issue of borders, it doesn’t seem that they made any progress. Can you point to any concrete areas where they made progress today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I would note that the Prime Minister and the President met one-on-one for more than an hour and a half -- more than twice the time expected. And I think that's an indication of just how productive and constructive this meeting was. They then, after breaking for a bit, coming back in for the pool spray and the statements, they went into a one-on-one lunch with the two of them -- just the two of them -- in the President’s private dining room off the Oval Office.
So I think it was a very productive meeting and a lot was accomplished. There’s a lot to talk about -- dramatic change in the Middle East and North Africa, the President’s speech yesterday, and all the issues that both the President and the Prime Minister discussed.
And so we feel it was a very useful and productive meeting.
Q But on the issue of borders, I know the President didn’t specifically bring this up in the pool spray, but Prime Minister Netanyahu did. He said that going back to the ’67 borders is indefensible. How does that square off with what the President said yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think what the President said yesterday was quite clear. The President said the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. That is a formulation that has been understood by parties to these negotiations and by anybody who’s been a close observer of these negotiations in this region for years. He felt it was important to articulate that.
The security issue here is recognized by the President, was recognized clearly by the President in his speech yesterday and again today in the Oval Office. He made clear that every state has a right to self-defense, that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threat. He made clear that security provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.
And I think that, again, anybody who knows this issue knows that this has been an understood starting point for resolving one of the four major issues between these two peoples, which is territory, for a long time.
Q But I guess the question is then what is happening today on the U.S. side --
MR. CARNEY: Do you mean, did they resolve the Arab-Israeli -- I mean, the Palestinian-Israel negotiations today? No.
Q Is there progress being made to get the Israeli side to move closer to the U.S. position on the border issue?
MR. CARNEY: I think, again, there is nothing that the President said yesterday that contradicts the 2004 letters that were exchanged between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, or what Prime Minister Netanyahu said today in the Oval Office. We -- the President said in his speech that a starting point for resolving the territorial issue is the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps and security for both nations. I think that's -- there’s nothing in that statement and the President’s speech yesterday that is contradicted by what the Prime Minister said.
Q So why is he so mad?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure that I accept that he was mad. I think they had an excellent meeting.
Q He said it’s indefensible.
MR. CARNEY: No, no, he said the borders -- first of all, it’s important to understand -- I mean, I shouldn’t have to parse words from the President or the Prime Minister. He said the borders were indefensible. That's an issue about security --
Q He does not appreciate how the President framed it yesterday. He was very clear about that on a plane on the way over and in the Oval Office.
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I think the President -- I think the Prime Minister made very clear, and the President did, that they don't agree on every issue but they are both committed to working together in the days, months ahead towards a peace, a two-state solution that allows for Israel’s security, which the United States remains committed to profoundly. I mean, this administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable and its demonstration of that goes beyond rhetoric.
I stood with the Prime Minister Netanyahu and with the Vice President, when I worked for Vice President Biden, in Jerusalem when the Prime Minister made clear that this administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is as great or greater than any administration in Israel’s history. And that is -- and the President feels very strongly about that. He also feels very strongly that we need to take constructive steps towards peace.
Yes, Jake -- sorry.
Q I’m going to ask a non-Israel question.
MR. CARNEY: Fine.
Q The IMF. We see Secretary Geithner’s comments about that today. Can you tell us if the Europeans are already floating a candidate?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything on candidates or personnel and would refer you to whatever statement the Secretary of the Treasury might have made.
Q Would that go for pretty much any IMF question?
MR. CARNEY: If it’s about the next head of the IMF, probably.
Q Let me switch to another thing then. Will Vice President Biden be holding talks next week with the deficit team?
MR. CARNEY: The Vice President will be resuming talks next week. I believe we have something on the books for Tuesday. And he looks forward to those negotiations continuing. They’ve been constructive and productive so far, and we hope that continues to be the case.
Q And with the latest developments with the Gang of Six, does the White House view this group as really the only group that has any hope of coming up with a deal that is credible?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, this is -- these are negotiations led by the Vice President at the President’s request with designated leaders of Congress. Any deal has to be a deal between the House, the Senate, the Democrats, the Republicans, and the White House. And the inputs are varied, but we do believe that -- and come from different places -- ideas come from different places, including the President’s fiscal commission, the so-called Simpson-Bowles commission, including -- obviously the President put forth a very substantial vision and plan, and there have been many other significant and valuable contributions to the general idea of how we should move this forward -- get significant deficit reduction in order to promote economic growth and job creation in this country and get our fiscal house in order.
So I think that, yes, the Biden talks, the Vice President’s talks are an important vehicle. We believe that is the vehicle and will be the vehicle for an agreement. We’re optimistic about that. But obviously there have been a lot of important contributions from others not actually in the room.
Q Officials with the Israeli government say that obviously this -- negotiating the borders, the starting off point is the ’67 lines with swaps, but what they’re upset about is that that was something that was going to be negotiated at the negotiating table, that they thought they could exact concessions from the Palestinians in exchange for which. And now, for the first time, it’s stated U.S. policy, which it has never been before. It is the U.S. position now that the ’67 lines with swaps are the basis for that, not -- it’s not something that would be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
MR. CARNEY: But this is a starting point for a negotiation on one element here, which is territory. The President believes that progress can be made on territory and security, two of the four major issues that need to be resolved for a comprehensive peace. And articulating a position and a truth is not -- it’s not some radical new departure from where we have been and where the parties have been in these conversations and negotiations that have gone on for many years now.
Q It might not be radical, but it’s significant that that is now the stated U.S. position.
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that it is important to speak truths that have -- that are evident to all the parties as a way of trying to help move these talks forward.
Q But it is offering the Palestinians -- at a time that they are reconciling with an organization that the United States government considers to be a terrorist organization, it is offering the Palestinians a carrot in exchange for coming to the negotiating table.
MR. CARNEY: There’s no carrot here, and let me make sure -- make clear again what the President said. First of all, this is a starting point, the basis for the eventual borders, 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps. Again, that’s the product of negotiations -- mutually agreed swaps. All the determinations about security, products -- those determinations are the products of direct negotiation.
So this is not an end point on the territory issue; this is an important starting point and a recognition of what all sides agree, as you just said, has to be the starting point.
Secondly, on the question -- when this was -- the President could not have been clearer on the fact that Palestinian efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September will not create an independent state. And Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists -- continues to insist on a path of terror and rejection. The President was clear about that yesterday. He’s clear about that today.
Q Netanyahu, in his discourse in the Oval Office, seemed to give the President some background information about the refugee issue, and stated that there were as many Jewish refugees after 1948 as there were Palestinian ones. They were absorbed by Israel; the Palestinian ones have not been absorbed by Arab countries. And this is one of the other issues that Netanyahu was upset about, is that he thought that President Obama took a step back from the official position. In 2004, the letter you referred to from Bush to Sharon, stated that basically the Palestinians had took the right of return off the table and stated that Palestinians should be absorbed by this new Palestinian state. And President Obama --
MR. CARNEY: Jake, you heard very clearly -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q President Obama said it was an issue to be resolved.
MR. CARNEY: Everybody who’s a part of these negotiations -- and again, observers of these -- this process over many administrations, both here and in Israel, and even several leaderships of the Palestinian people, know what the four issues that need to be resolved are: territory, security, refugees and --
MR. CARNEY: Jerusalem, thank you. So these -- and what the President said very clearly yesterday -- appreciate the help -- what the President said very clearly yesterday is that he believes we can move forward on territory and security in order to gain some momentum in this process that has been stalled and which needs to move forward during this moment of opportunity.
Q But why back away from the Bush position?
MR. CARNEY: Look, he addressed issues of territory and security yesterday. I take issue that he moved in any direction on the issue that you’re discussing. What he talked about yesterday was territory and security.
Q What seems to have the Israelis upset is that they perceive that he’s pulled back from the position expressed by George W. Bush to Sharon in 2004. As you know, words matter, nuance is important. And in 2004, there was an expectation that they would go back to the ‘67 lines, with -- taking into account the realities on the ground, I believe, which seemed to include the settlements in a way that mutually agreed swaps does not. That and the refugee thing seem to be a backing away. Why are they not?
MR. CARNEY: Well, but look. You can perceive or misinterpret what the President said, or you can look at what he said very precisely, okay? There was actually an article by the Associated Press --
Q -- that’s what they disagree --
MR. CARNEY: -- that wildly mischaracterized what the President said right off of his speech yesterday -- not by you. But the President could not have been clearer. The formulation of borders of Israel and Palestine being based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps -- that is a formulation that everybody understands who knows anything about this process.
Q But it’s not the same one that they thought they had in 2004.
MR. CARNEY: I do not want to negotiate the particulars here. What the President said is not -- should not and is not considered new in terms of a starting point for the negotiations on the territorial boundaries. It is a position that people have accepted to be true for a long time -- all parties.
Q Who’s accepted it?
MR. CARNEY: All sides here have accepted it. Well, Bill, maybe you haven’t followed it that closely, but you know that -- the people who know it and follow this know it to be true.
Q Well, that’s what I’m saying. They don’t accept it because they would like to reaffirm the language --
MR. CARNEY: Again, there is nothing --
Q -- in the 2004 letter between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon.
MR. CARNEY: There is nothing --
Q -- the realities on the ground.
MR. CARNEY: On mutually agreed swaps, you can -- is that not -- I mean, that is pretty clear. We’re talking about mutually agreed swaps to resolve territorial and boundary issues. That is very clear, Bill, and people understand what that means who know anything about these negotiations. And that has been true for a long time.
Q Did you anticipate this reaction from the Israelis?
MR. CARNEY: Look, again, I think we just heard from the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the United States in the Oval Office, that they had a very constructive and useful conversation, an expression by the President on the fact that they have met seven times, and noted the significance of the relationship which was symbolized by the Prime Minister speaking to Congress, and the incredible commitment that this administration and this country has had and continues to have to Israel and to Israel’s security.
The fact that there are some disagreements, as I think the Prime Minister said, here and there -- you know, friends, obviously, can disagree on issues, and they should always be able to speak candidly to one another. And I think that was the case in the President’s speech, is the case in the conversation, the long conversation he had with the Prime Minister today, and it was the case and is the case in the way that the President spoke to all parties in this particular process in his speech yesterday, and also to all peoples and countries in the region in his broader speech, which I remind you was about not just the Middle East peace process but all of the historic change that we’ve seen in the region.
Q I’m just wondering if there was a candid conversation before the speech where somebody from the U.S. side said, here’s what he’s going to lay out, and the Israeli sides may have said, well, we’re going to push back hard if that's what he says.
MR. CARNEY: We obviously notified and have constant consultations with our partners, including the Israelis, and consulted with the Israelis prior to the speech.
Q Libya, War Powers Act. Is there movement on that, from your perspective? Will there be consultation with Congress? I know we’re at a deadline on that.
MR. CARNEY: As you know, Mike, the President has been in consultation with Congress on Libya from the beginning. And the President’s actions have been and are consistent with the War Powers Resolution. We have said from the beginning that we would welcome an expression of support from Congress, in this case similar to the one that has been put forward -- bipartisan one put forward by Senators McCain and Kerry and others. And, again, we have consulted with Congress. We’ll continue to consult with Congress, and would welcome support.
Q Is there a feeling, though, that he needs to ask authorization for continued operation --
MR. CARNEY: I would just say that we have -- the President has acted in a way that's been consistent with the War Powers Resolution, and would welcome an expression of support by Congress.
Q Do you have a legal justification that you can share with us to sort of -- that you guys have sought on this, just to make sure --
MR. CARNEY: As you know --
Q I know you’re not a lawyer.
MR. CARNEY: -- I’m not a lawyer
Q But can you share something --
MR. CARNEY: There is a -- there has been a long debate about -- in this country about -- and which we do not need to replicate here because the amount -- the stuff written about the War Powers Resolution over the years could fill this room and none of it would be conclusive.
We believe the President has acted in a way that's consistent with the War Powers Resolution, and has consulted -- he believes that consultation with Congress in matters like these is vital, and that's why he has consulted so regularly with Congress and will continue to do so. And he would welcome the support from Congress of the kind put forward in that resolution that I mentioned.
Q Did the President appreciate or need the history lesson from Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President appreciates the conversation he had with the Prime Minister, and obviously, the Prime Minister as the leader of Israel, and not for the first time, has a keen sense of his own country’s history and was happy to hear what the Prime Minister had to say.
Q Going to -- was there a specific conversation had about Jerusalem that didn’t come up in the -- it didn’t come up in the press spray. Can you comment on that a little bit?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to -- it was a one-on-one conversation. Obviously the President --
Q You say one-on-one, no aides --
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q -- on either side?
MR. CARNEY: Correct. And for 95 minutes -- 96.
Q How long was the lunch?
MR. CARNEY: Pretty brief, because the President had to go to Langley.
Q And that was one-on-one --
MR. CARNEY: That was one-on-one as well -- except, you know, somebody came in and probably brought them some food. But -- and again, I think that is indicative of a solid relationship in the fact that they are able to speak very candidly back and forth and work very constructively together.
So, in terms of the content, obviously the President read out to his advisors the content of the discussion, but I'm not going to get into details about it.
Q There was supposed to be, obviously, this working lunch where I think a one-plus-ten, I think it was.
MR. CARNEY: Right.
Q Is that getting rescheduled? Is that still --
MR. CARNEY: Well, we weren’t able to do it because --
Q Today, I understand that --
MR. CARNEY: -- because it went on for so long.
Q -- you know, later today --
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s Friday and we’re going to --
Q -- for Shabbat -- or maybe after Saturday night.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, I think our schedule is packed, and the decision was made that it was better to do the one-on-one. They were having constructive conversations. It ran long. And then rather than have a sort of ceremonial almost lunch with a bunch of people in one room, why not just then go back and the two of them keep talking? So that was -- I think folks from either team who missed out on lunch will go a little hungry this afternoon, but it was for a greater cause.
Q Finally, can you preview the AIPAC remarks?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything on that for you, except to say that you can expect the President to echo the themes from his speech yesterday, in particular the commitment to Israel’s security that this administration has and has had, and this country has and has had, and will go -- will have going forward.
Q Should anything be read into the fact the President did not bring up the 1967 -- that his statement about the 1967 borders --
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q -- in his comments today, knowing that --
MR. CARNEY: Nothing should be read into it, because he did give a long speech yesterday, and spoke quite comprehensibly -- comprehensively, as well as comprehensibly, on this issue yesterday, so he didn’t think he needed to reiterate that for the pool spray. They obviously talked about it in their one-on-one meeting.
Q Will he reiterate it on Sunday?
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to preview the speech any more than I have. I know you guys always want stuff in advance --
Q Why wouldn’t he?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not saying he wouldn’t. I’m just saying -- I said he would echo the themes. I just -- I’m not even sure we have a -- I’m not sure we have that speech in hand yet, so I don't want to say one way or the other what's going to be in the speech before it’s given.
Q Jay, can you just clear up what happened yesterday in terms of being late to the remarks? All kinds of people are speculating that the President was on the phone with people or -- what was the real reason why he was late?
MR. CARNEY: The President was working on his speech and actually -- and then had a couple of other items not related to the speech that he had -- business he had to take care of, national security-related issues that were not related to the speech at all.
Q But was it like changing the ’67 --
MR. CARNEY: Had nothing to do with reports -- I assure you, having seen every draft of the speech from the first one, that it had nothing to do -- no changes were made to that language during that time that led to the delay.
Q Just to clarify, so they only met one-on-one; there was never any staff in the room?
MR. CARNEY: Well, staff -- staff came in. Obviously there was some staff in there, for those who came in for the pool spray. So there were -- but the meeting itself was one-on-one.
Q For an hour and a half?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, from 11:29 a.m. to 1:05 p.m. Then they broke and the President met with his team and the Prime Minister, I believe, went and met with his team; came back, they had the pool spray; and then broke up briefly again and then came back and went to lunch, and that’s when I left.
Q Okay, but in the readout -- I know you say -- gave us a readout on content. What did he say about the tone of those private discussions?
MR. CARNEY: That they were productive and constructive and useful.
Q Did he mention any -- I mean, can you describe what the conversation -- characterize the conversation? Did the Prime Minister bring up the 1967 borders, and what --
MR. CARNEY: They talked about all the issues related to the speech and related to the developments in the region. Beyond that, I'm not going to get into specific detail because the President moments ago spoke about their meeting, and I'd rather leave it to him.
Q Sorry, one more. Can you just give us a sense of what’s next on this topic, for the President, for members of the administration?
MR. CARNEY: On the Middle East peace process? The President -- the administration wants and encourages both sides to return to direct negotiations. He made clear that Palestinians have to answer some very legitimate and serious questions about how they move forward with negotiations, given the reconciliation agreement they had -- that the PA had with the -- with Hamas. And so that obviously is something that needs to be resolved.
But he wants this process to move forward. He thinks that this is an important window, and that, as he said yesterday, there are -- this doesn’t get easier as time goes on. This will not get easier for the Palestinians or the Israelis. It is in the interests of both parties to reach an agreement that can create a lasting peace and two-state solution.
Q Jay, since the President’s historic address to Parliament on Wednesday is being characterized as the anchor speech of his trip to Europe, can you flesh out just a little bit what the President wants to accomplish in this address?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I will simply note that the speech will echo what he wants to accomplish in the trip, which is to reaffirm the importance of our relations with our European allies, in particular with the state visit to the U.K., the special relationship with the United Kingdom and the British people; talk about the cooperation we have on so many issues, including international economic issues, but also Afghanistan, Libya, in terms of foreign policy and so many others. And -- so we have obviously the visit to Ireland, and he wants to -- obviously that will -- he’ll get into that special -- that relationship that we have with Ireland and his personal history in Ireland, the fact that he has ancestors there, ancestry there; and then the U.K., and then obviously onto France for the G8. He will focus -- he has asked, as you heard in the speech yesterday, that a focus of this discussion in part be about ways that we can work together enhance economic development in Egypt and Tunisia, and then on to Poland, a very important and close ally in Poland.
So he’s very much looking forward to the trip. I don’t have details for you beyond that on the speech to Parliament, although I know he’s looking forward to it.
Q Will the President be expressing his gratitude to the British people for their involvement over the last few years in some of the --
MR. CARNEY: Oh, I think you can count on that, yes.
Q Has the President spoken with Abbas, or did he -- since the speech, or did he speak with him ahead of the --
MR. CARNEY: I'll have to take that. I'm not sure that he did. Obviously we notified and consulted with the parties. I'm just not sure which individuals. I'm told he did not, but I'm sure there were consultations.
Q Just wondering if he’s going to, at some point in the near future, talk to Abbas about --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any --
Q -- Abbas had called the day before -- I mean, had said the day before in The New York Times that he was going to request to go to the U.N. in September and --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have anything for you --
Q Was it communicated --
MR. CARNEY: -- in terms of possible calls.
Q -- that the President was going to say that that is not the basis of a Palestinian --
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve made that clear before, so I think they -- let me -- I can get details in terms of our outreach specifically related to the speech, a lot of which was done I think that morning. But the -- but I can get details specifically on that. But that position is something that we had stated before, that we do not believe that that’s -- that that is not the path that will achieve a Palestinian state; that the only way to do that is through direct negotiations. *
Q What’s the consequence of Republicans’ successful filibuster of Goodwin Liu?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s a shame, there’s no question. Mr. Liu is highly qualified, has a keen intellect and mainstream views. And obviously we regret that he was not confirmed and he didn’t get the up or down -- just simple up and down vote that we would have liked. But we’re -- we made clear that that’s what we wanted, and we regret that it didn’t happen.
Q So what happens now?
MR. CARNEY: In what sense?
Q In the larger sense of judicial nominations and confirmations, and also specifically --
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re going to continue to work on other nominations. It’s very important. It’s obviously vital that open slots in our judiciary get filled, that open slots in our -- in this administration get filled. And so we work regularly with Congress to make that happen.
Q Does that mean you have to nominate different kinds of judges or consult some more in a different way?
MR. CARNEY: We work with Congress on this; we continue to do that. We believe that Goodwin Liu was a highly qualified candidate, that he should have been confirmed. But we continue to work with Congress on other nominations.
Q Jay, can I follow on that?
MR. CARNEY: Can I just -- let me work through Perry here, and then I’ll go to you.
Q Why was Saudi Arabia not mentioned in the speech yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: The President mentioned a lot of countries. You will note that the countries he did mention in the speech have either gone through democratic transformations -- Tunisia and Egypt -- or are currently experiencing the kinds of upheaval that have we -- that have been -- the kinds of -- that have been so historic in the past six months.
So I think if you note, those are the nations that he talked about in his speech with regard to the -- with regard to the region and the Arab Spring.
Q But doing neither, you don’t get brought up?
MR. CARNEY: It was a long speech, Chuck, and he spoke directly and in detail about a number of countries that are experiencing either positive transformation or are undergoing the kind of crackdown that we’re seeing in Syria that we abhor and we’ve condemned, and that we’ve responded to with significant sanctions that we have ratcheted up as we continue to try to put pressure on the Syrian regime to cease the violence against its own people. And he spoke very clearly about other countries -- Yemen and Bahrain and on and on. So I think it’s pretty clear what he was doing with that speech.
So let me -- I’m sorry, you had -- you wanted to follow on the --
Q On the Liu nomination.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q I’m just wondering what happens with Liu now. I mean, are you guys going to keep pushing for him? Are you going to ramp up a campaign with Congress for him, or are you moving on?
MR. CARNEY: I think -- the Senate has voted. I don’t know of any plan to continue to press on that, but why don’t you check with my office and I’ll see if I have anything else on that.
Q The operative phrase in the 2004 letter is, “It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” i.e. the 1967 borders. Does President Obama concur with that line?
MR. CARNEY: The President did not say that Israel should withdraw or that its borders should be the 1967 lines. He said that the border should be based on the ’67 lines with mutually agreed swaps --
Q I’m just asking you if he concurs --
MR. CARNEY: -- and I made clear that there is nothing that --
Q -- if there’s no change, does he concur with that line --
MR. CARNEY: There is nothing the President said that -- about these -- the boundaries and the issues of the ’67 lines that contradicts that.
Q So he does concur with that line?
MR. CARNEY: There is nothing he said that contradicts it, Keith.
Q Quickly, one more line that was out of there. “A solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and a settling of the Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.” Does President Obama agree with that line in the 2004 letter?
MR. CARNEY: Look, the President spoke very clearly and at length about this issue yesterday. He spoke specifically about two of the major four issues that continue to frustrate this process, because they’re difficult and they need resolution. I’m not going to characterize his position on issues that he had not discussed yesterday. I would just point you to his speech yesterday.
Q You -- I just -- I mean, I’ve mentioned two things in that letter --
MR. CARNEY: You could ask me --
Q Why are you having so much trouble --
MR. CARNEY: -- you could ask me seven different things about what his position is.
Q If there’s no change in policy, why can’t you just concur with the previous policy?
MR. CARNEY: All I said was -- well, he gave -- he spoke at length about this, Keith, yesterday.
Q I’m a little bit confused by the notion that this is totally new to talk about the ’67 lines with land swaps. I know that it’s new that the President stated it. But as far as I knew, this was already the position of the administration before. The Secretary of State, several times, used the same language. So is this a new position of the administration, or is it the old position of the administration just stated newly by the President?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I’ve made pretty clear that this is a position that’s been recognized by all parties to these negotiations for a long time -- that any territorial resolution would be based on the ’67 lines. That’s a position that was understood by all parties for a number of years now, including, obviously, the United States and this administration, but predating this administration.
Q On that question, can you just walk us through it a little bit? When did the President first start talking about actually stating the territory points?
MR. CARNEY: In terms of the speech?
Q No, I mean, just like the idea of saying it himself and bringing it out into the open and moving it to a starting point.
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to sort of give you a tick-tock of internal negotiations in terms of our policy positions and pronouncements that the President makes. I mean, he made his speech. It was a significant speech.
Q Well, can you say when he actually decided --
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q -- that he would do so?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don’t know that I can.
Q Do you know, or you just can’t say?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that I can.
Q Just one, Jay?
Q But wait --
Q Just one, Jay?
Q -- the question of the changes in the last half hour. Can you characterize -- I mean, it’s pretty unusual for the President to deliver a speech late because he’s making changes to it.
MR. CARNEY: Well --
Q Can you say anything about --
MR. CARNEY: I covered a number of Presidents. I would say that is not unusual.
Q It is for this President.
MR. CARNEY: It is the -- look, I’m not going to get into any of the details. I can -- but -- because there was a false report about what he -- where the edits were coming; they were not on the issue that we’ve discussed. There were also other issues that had nothing to do with his speech that intervened that made him a little late. But, again, by the standard of presidencies I’ve covered, this was not terribly late.
Q Can I ask you a question about the speech?
Q Can I ask a question, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Let me go to Victoria.
Q How frustrated is the President that out of a 45-minute speech, here in the U.S. we’re focused almost exclusively on pretty much one phrase, which is less than 10 seconds, which is “1967 borders,” and we’re talking almost not at all about 44 minutes and 50 seconds that he spoke of.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m frustrated. (Laughter.) I don’t -- no, I think obviously he knows that this is an important issue and we obviously had the Prime Minister of Israel visit the White House today, and the Prime Minister is staying for a number of days at the Blair House -- again, evidence of the significance of the relationship --
Q -- was wasted, that the rest of it went into the ether --
MR. CARNEY: Not at all. Not at all. Look, the President made some very important statements about U.S. policy toward a region that is going through historic transformation. And I think that that speech was heard around the world, as well, importantly, in the region itself. And he will -- I’m sure he will talk about his position on these issues again in the future. But you are right to note that the speech was about much more than just the Middle East peace process. And -- but he did put it within the context of a broader opportunity here, a window of opportunity, because of the historic changes we’ve seen.
Q Thank you. Since the President believes that Israel should give back any land that it had won in battle, why doesn’t he believe that we, too, should give back land that we won in battle with Mexico?
MR. CARNEY: Lester, I have gone over many times what the President said, and he certainly didn’t say that.
Q I just wondered why.
MR. CARNEY: Connie.
Q Thank you. Would the President accept militarized -- U.S. troops on the border if there is a border backing the 1967 lines?
MR. CARNEY: You’re talking about a hypothetical way beyond where we are now.
Q It’s about my colleague’s question. The Treasury Department statement says that the U.S. will support any candidate with broad support. So will the U.S. support a candidate from an emerging market, say, from India, for the IMF chief post?
MR. CARNEY: I confess that I’ve spent most of my time this morning on a different issue, and I’ll let the Treasury Department statement stand.
Q And will the President be discussing this during the G8 meetings?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I imagine that the IMF will come up, but what that conversation will look like, I can’t predict.
Q But knowing the President’s mind day to day, does he have a support for an emerging market --
MR. CARNEY: You know, you’re asking me a question that I’m just not going to answer.
Q Jay, you said that the President wants the process to go forward. What ideas does he have, considering that now that the Israelis are refusing the ‘67 border and they’re not going to negotiate with a government --
MR. CARNEY: There’s this crazy mischaracterization of what we’re talking about here. He didn’t -- there’s nothing the Prime Minister said that is inconsistent with what the President said yesterday, which was that the borders should -- borders should start from the basis of the ‘67 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, okay? Secondly, he had made very clear that any resolution of the territorial issue had to account for Israel’s security, its ability to defend itself by itself, to prevent the infiltration of weapons and a resurgence of terrorism.
And I think I’ve answered the question about where we go from here. Clearly the negotiations have to be between the Palestinians and the Israelis for this to succeed, and that’s why we’ve encouraged the resumption of direct negotiations.
Q I understand that, but how you’re going to bring them to the negotiating table, considering all the facts that we have seen today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that some issues need to be resolved, as the President made clear. The Palestinians need to answer some questions about how they can credibly negotiate with Israel when -- given their reconciliation with Hamas, and Hamas has yet to renounce terrorism, renounce violence, or recognize the right of Israel to exist.
Let me go to Ron. Let me to go Ron.
Q I just want to follow up specifically on this issue of answering questions. What exactly is the standard that the new Palestinian government has to meet to satisfy the President? Are we talking about weapons decommissioning? Are we talking about leaders resigning or their government dissolving in order for the President to be satisfied that the Israelis should in fact engage with this Palestinian government?
MR. CARNEY: Ron, you’re sort of getting ahead of the process. The President --
Q It’s the beginning of the process because it can’t happen -- Israel is not going to talk --
MR. CARNEY: Well, then I’m not going to negotiate the details of it. We’ve been very clear that it is unacceptable to us, Hamas’s position, supporting terror, supporting violence, and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Q Right, exactly. So does a mere -- not a “mere,” but does a statement suffice? Does an extended period of no hostilities suffice? What I’m trying to understand is, what do they have to do to prove that, in fact --
MR. CARNEY: Let me step back a little bit. We are, again, a little ahead of ourselves, because we are still monitoring the developments related to this reconciliation, what it means in terms of Palestinian leadership. So it’s hard to answer those questions specifically until we see what posture the Palestinians are going to take. So I don’t want to draw any lines here when there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Q Can I ask a question about the War Powers Act?
Q Are you saying that the Israelis are not --
MR. CARNEY: I did already, while you were gone.
Q -- properly or fully characterizing the President’s position? Because I didn’t hear the Prime Minister talk about land swaps. He just talked about the 1967 borders. He seemed to be -- by that logic, he’s reacting to something the President didn’t say.
MR. CARNEY: Again, what I -- the Prime Minister said -- spoke about the indefensibility of withdrawing to the ‘67 borders was an issue of security, and the President made clear that, first of all -- made clear yesterday and certainly again today in his conversations, that what he said was that the borders would be based on the ‘67 lines, should be based on the ‘67 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, and that Israel’s security had to be paramount here, that it had to be able to defend itself, by itself, and all the other issues I laid out.
So your observation is an interesting one, and I think the point that I’ve tried to make and others have tried to make is that there’s been a lot stipulated about what the President said, and it hasn’t included everything the President said yesterday.
Let me do the last one. Let me go all the way in back. I haven’t hit the back row in a while.
Q Thanks, Jay. What several people seem to have hit on is that while the 1967 borders with land swaps is not new criteria for the negotiations, that the transparency with which a sitting President laid out for the world to see was new, and the transparency with which he laid out so many of the negotiating criteria that had previously been so esoteric in a lot of these negotiating procedures -- that is what’s new. So what then is the strategic advantage, according to the President, for laying this all out for the world to see? I mean, there must be some reason --
MR. CARNEY: Because he believes that it will help the process move forward.
MR. CARNEY: Well, because I think it’s important to speak truths that everybody understands, and that create a framework around which very tough negotiations can take place on the issue of territory.
Q Has the closure of the negotiation process and the criteria been part of the reason it hasn’t been successful yet?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, this has been a process that has -- that preceded this administration and has been a challenge to successive administrations, as well as leaders of the parties here. And I think that the President is very interested in trying to find a way to move forward. He understands that this is a hard issue, and that’s why it has been so hard to resolve.
But what he -- the speech he gave yesterday, the section of the speech on this issue, was all about his desire to try to move the process forward.
Q Can I follow up on Chuck’s question about the War Powers Act? Because I don’t understand how the U.S. is behaving in a way that’s consistent with the War Powers Act.
MR. CARNEY: I spoke at length about this when you were out of the room. The President -- the President --
Q I just read the transcript -- you didn’t say anything. (Laughter.) Sixty days, expires today -- from congressional authorization, notification, 60 days expires today. So how is this consistent?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that he has acted and has acted consistent with the War Powers Resolution. We can have a debate, which could spend the afternoon, and there’s volumes and volumes written about the application and issues involving the War Powers Resolution. I’m not going to do that from here. The President looks forward to, would welcome support from Congress on this issue, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.
END 3:11 P.M. EDT
March 6, 2014
March 6, 2014
March 5, 2014
March 5, 2014
March 4, 2014
March 4, 2014
March 4, 2014
March 3, 2014