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Posts Tagged ‘Mahmoud Abbas’

Hillary begins this chapter by verifying an incident we had all seen reported that was never confirmed.  It took place on the road between Ramallah and Jerusalem in 2012 and concerned many of us.

She was traveling in the Holy Land just before Thanksgiving.

Video: Hillary Clinton With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.

The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored. The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The incident on the Ramallah road involved a rocket that might have been launched, according to Hillary, and not the attempted ground attack we had read of here.

As she mentioned in chapter 14, the Obama administration came into office on the heels of a cease-fire in the region that more-or-less held through the next two years and began a creeping deterioration through 2011 into 2012.  Events of the Arab Spring influenced Hamas activity in Gaza as related by Hillary and Sinai began to descend into lawlessness as Bedouin tribes, excluded by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo,  became restless.

On this first trip to post-revolutionary Egypt,  she raised the issue of Sinai to then President Morsi to no avail.  He perceived no problem.  After all, there was an Islamist government now.  She found his perception naive at best.

Hillary Clinton with Egyptian FM Mohamed Kamel Amr

Hillary Clinton in Egypt: Day Two

Came August –  Henry Kissinger had once warned her as secretary of state never to plan a vacation in August  – this.

Hillary Clinton on Vacation (Sort Of)

With regard to the Secretary’s call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, they obviously talked about the situation in Sinai and the ongoing Egyptian security operations. They talked about the visit of the IMF to Cairo and under the – with Christine Lagarde there as well, and the United States’ ongoing interest in support Egypt’s recovery as well.

In October the Emir of Qatar made an official visit to Gaza.  It was a big deal for Hamas and precipitated a thorny regional situation for all involved at a volatile time.  The Emir, Sheikh Hammad bin Khalifa al-Thani,  assisted by his cousin,  Sheikh Hammad bin Jassim al-Thani,  sought to seize the moment to  peddle Qatari influence and consolidate power in the region.

The power-play was short-lived.  With the overthrow of Morsi and Islamist influence diluted, the two Sheikhs stepped aside in 2013.   In 2014 Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE recalled their ambassadors to Qatar.

Hillary was in Australia with Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey when a call came through from Ehud Barak that in response to rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel was about to begin an air campaign.

Hillary Clinton With Australian Foreign Minister Robert Carr, Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

 

Hillary was bound for Singapore and then Thailand to meet up with President Obama.  They were to make an historic joint visit to Burma and Cambodia where she  had originally been scheduled to attend ASEAN with President Obama.   It was a critical summit addressing issues about the South China Sea.

But in the Middle East there was a chance of a ground invasion of Gaza.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Tour Wat Pho Royal Monastery in Bangkok

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Public Schedule for November 20, 2012

The decision had been made that it was most important that she travel to the Middle East to seek a cease-fire. Hillary and her traveling party headed for Israel.

Breaking: Hillary Clinton Wheels Down Israel

She met with Netanyahu immediately upon landing, but was told she would not be given much time.  If she did not effect an agreement quickly, the plans for a ground invasion would be implemented.

Hillary Clinton’s Day in Pics

Hillary Clinton Strongly Condemns Bus Bombing in Tel Aviv

Hillary Clinton Brokers Egyptian-Sponsored Middle East Cease-Fire

The visit to Abbas was largely a formality to keep him relevant in a situation where he had no real control or muscle to exert since the threat was coming from Hamas.  Hillary wanted to be sure he was kept in the loop.  He appreciated that.

Missing element: trust.  Mubarak was gone and the Israeli’s did not trust the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt that was negotiating for Hamas.  An Iraeli official told Hillary that this was the hardest choice Bibi had faced as Prime Minister.

She left for Cairo with an Israeli-approved  strategy.  This is what her day looked like.

 

Public Schedule for November 21, 2012

Public Schedule

Washington, DC
November 21, 2012

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
PUBLIC SCHEDULE
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 21, 2012

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

Secretary Clinton is on foreign travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo. Please click here for more information.

8:15 a.m. LOCAL  Secretary Clinton meets with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in Jerusalem.
(CLOSED PRESS COVERAGE)

9:30 a.m.  LOCAL Secretary Clinton meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah.
(CAMERA SPRAY PRECEDING MEETING)

11:00 a.m. LOCAL  Secretary Clinton meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem.
(CAMERA SPRAY PRECEDING MEETING)

2:40 p.m. LOCAL  Secretary Clinton meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo.
(CAMERA SPRAY PRECEDING MEETING)

4:10 p.m. LOCAL  Secretary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr deliver joint press statements, in Cairo. Please click here for a transcript of the remarks.
(OPEN PRESS COVERAGE)

Note: Secretary Clinton has no public schedule through Sunday, November 25th.

Morsi was educated in the U.S. and read carefully.  He questioned the translation, and objected to a portion until Hillary pointed out that his it was folks who had proposed that element at which point he let it slide.  He and the Muslim Brotherhood were new to leadership despite having something of a history,  and Hillary had to remind them of their position of leadership in the region.  The moment of the announcement would represent the apex of their authority.

Video: Hillary Clinton Announces Mid-East Cease-Fire

November 21, 2012 by still4hill

Hillary Clinton and the Gaza Cease-Fire

In the end a senior Israeli official told Hillary that they had been forty-eight hours from launching a ground offensive and that her intervention was the only thing standing in the way.

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Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>

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The chapter begins with Hillary explaining briefly the history of the Palestinian flag, its symbolism, and her impression upon finding it flying beside the Israeli flag at the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when she arrived for a close, tight, tiny meeting in September 2010.  Only  Mahmoud Abbas, Hillary, George Mitchell, and Netanyahu himself were secluded in Bibi’s personal study.  An impatient press was gathered outside.  Things were tense.  A construction freeze was about to expire.

The photo below was taken early in her tenure at State when she attended a conference on humanitarian aid to Gaza.  The Obama administration entered this arena to a three-day-old cease-fire and a Gaza reduced to rubble and in dire need of humanitarian aid.   Reading it now, we might feel as if we have come full circle and need another of these donor conferences for the region.

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Hillary Clinton’s Remarks at Gaza Conference

March 3, 2009 by still4hill

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All of us recognize that human progress depends on the human spirit. That a child growing up in Gaza without shelter, health care, or an education has the same right to go to school, see a doctor, and live with a roof over her head as a child growing up in your country or mine. That a mother and father in the West Bank struggling to fulfill their dreams for their children have the same right as parents anywhere else in the world to a good job, a decent home, and the tools to achieve greater prosperity and peace.

On that first official visit to the Middle East  she met with both  the outgoing Israeli government and the incoming one.  Hillary’s first phone call as secretary of state to a foreign leader was to Ehud Olmert.

Hillary Clinton With Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

 

Hillary Clinton with Tzipi Livni

There is a long time friendship between the Clinton and Peres families.  At this meeting he gave her a bouquet composed of every flower that grows in Israel.

Hillary Clinton with Shimon Peres

 

Her Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman,  met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton astoundingly rarely.  Far more frequently she met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Hillary Clinton with Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman

She visited an English language teaching program in Ramallah.  Amideast is a major source of Middle Eastern students to U.S. universities.  They manage government scholarships for Saudi students and also Fulbright scholarships.

Hillary Clinton at an Amideast Event

 

The issue at this point was the controversial Goldstone Report.  All of the links below contain policy comments about it.

Secretary Clinton & Ambassador Rice: Remarks After Meeting on the Adoption of a UNSC Resolution to Combat Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

The Secretary’s Week in Review

Secretary Clinton: Interviews Galore!

Press Briefing on the Plane to Cairo

Secretary Clinton Remarks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Gheit

Secretary Clinton: Two Interviews

Video & Text: Middle East Quartet Statement, Press Briefing, & Secretary Clinton’s Remarks

The announcement, right before AIPAC and while Joe Biden was visiting Israel of 1,600 new settlement units to be constructed was considered a major insult to the U.S.  Obama was furious, and it was Hillary’s job to communicate that to Netanyahu.  Bibi denied responsibility but did not cancel the construction.

Video & Text: Secretary Clinton at 2010 AIPAC Conference

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Last fall, I stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem and praised his government’s decision to place a moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. And then I praised it again in Cairo and in Marrakesh and in many places far from Jerusalem to make clear that this was a first step, but it was an important first step. And yes, I underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlements. As Israel’s friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed….

https://still4hill.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/03-22-10-14.jpg

New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines that mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides say want and need. And it exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to exploit. It undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role – in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.

Video & Text: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks At the American Jewish Committee Annual Gala Dinner

In 2011 Goldstone retracted part of the report.  The damage had already been done.  The Palestinians were planning to put a statehood vote before the Security Council.

Hillary points out that the Obama administration policy, indeed, U.S. policy, is and has been a two-state solution as stated in Obama’s Cairo speech.  This was not a new policy and had remained a U.S. goal from the Clinton administration through the George W. Bush administration   But a vote in the Security Council was not the intended route.  There were supposed to be negotiated compromises.

She recalled their visit, before the speech, to the Sultan Hassan Mosque and the peace and calm she sensed there in the middle of a presidential visit and major policy rollout.

Secretary Clinton in Cairo

Ten days after the Cairo speech, Netanyahu endorsed the two-state solution in a speech at Bar-Ilan University.

For Netanyahu, the major sticking point from the start was the condition of a freeze on  construction of settlements.  He announced a 10-month freeze on October 31.  Hillary called the move “unprecedented” and felt a good deal of kickback for the word which she continues to stand by.  Abbas, for his part, agreed to delay the statehood vote at the U.N.

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Hillary got along especially well with Ehud Barak and speaks fondly of him as endlessly optimistic and a voice for peace.  He evidently also had her on speed dial and would ring her up and say, “Hillary, let’s strategize.”  They met officially on a frequent basis and were quite a pair!

Secretary of State Clinton and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak speak to reporters Secretary of State Clinton and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak speak to reporters in Washington

When, in May 2010,  there was an Israeli attack on a Turkish flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists bound for Gaza resulting in the death of nine Turkish citizens, Barak called Hillary while she was marching in the Memorial Day parade.

Video: Bill & Hillary Clinton in the Memorial Day Parade in Chappaqua, NY

Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu  warned that this could mean war between Turkey and Israel, called it Turkey’s 9/11, and was at the State Department the next morning.  He was very emotional.  Hillary contacted Netanyahu who wanted to patch things up but would not apologize.  During her tenure, he never did apologize, but called Erdogan in March 2013 when Obama was in Jerusalem with an apology.  According to Hillary the patching up is still in progress.

Secretary Clinton: Photos of the Day

Hillary Clinton Day One Mid-East Peace Talks

Photos: Hillary Opens Mid-East Peace Talks

Video: Secretary Clinton Relaunches Mid-East Peace Talks

… by being here today, you each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change, and moving toward a future of peace and dignity that only you can create.

The upshot was that the parties agreed to meet in Sharm el Sheikh in two weeks.   Hillary commented that her work as secretary of state frequently brought her to lovely resorts. She never had the opportunity to enjoy any of them for all the work that needed to be done.

Where Hillary Clinton is going

From Sharm el Sheikh: Slideshow and Briefing by George Mitchell

Secretary Clinton’s Press Briefing En Route Sharm El Sheikh

Hillary in Jerusalem

September 15, 2010 by still4hill

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Israeli President Shimon Peres Before their Meeting

Hillary Clinton in Ramallah and Amman

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh

 

Later that month she met with Abbas and Ehud Barak on the sidelines at UNGA.  No statements.  One photo.  No real progress. President Obama pressed for an extension of the freeze.  Abbas was essentially saying “choose between peace and settlements.”  Hillary spoke with Ehud Barak but Bibi refused to budge.  Abbas was ready to go ahead with a statehood vote in the Security Council while Hillary kept telling him the only path to peace was via negotiations. In a phone call with Bibi, Hillary encountered intransigence.

 

Then,  In November a door opened a crack, and Hillary flew to New York to breeze through it.

Hillary Clinton’s Mid-East Charm Offensive: Remarks Before Her Meeting With Netanyahu

Hillary, Bibi in the New York Marathon: Joint Statement at the Finish Line

Hillary, Bibi, and the NYC Marathon Take Two: Some Reviews

Eventually there was a proposal to halt construction for 90 days in exchange for a $3 billion security package and a promise to veto any resolutions at the U.N. that would undercut negotiations.  No one liked this solution including Hillary.   She told Tony Blair that she felt it was a sacrifice worth making.   It began to disintegrate almost at birth and was dust by November.

Hillary took a strong stand at the Saban Forum in December.

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy Seventh Annual Forum

December 11, 2010 by still4hill

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington

 

The United States and the international community cannot impose a solution. Sometimes I think both parties seem to think we can. We cannot. And even if we could, we would not, because it is only a negotiated agreement between the parties that will be sustainable. The parties themselves have to want it. The people of the region must decide to move beyond a past that cannot change and embrace a future they can shape together.

President Obama went to the State Department to reiterate the U.S. position regarding the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.  Bibi ignored the swaps part of that and Abbas could not guarantee that a new push for statehood would not happen at the U.N.

George Mitchell resigned.

Hillary says the tiny private meeting in September 2010 at Bibi’s residence when he raised the Palestinian flag to welcome Abbas to his home might have been the last time Abbas and Netanyahu spoke.  It might have been.

Gaza: Netanyahu and Abbas had secret meeting before ceasefire

If Bibi is going to threaten to fire his chief negotiator, Tsipi Livni, for talking with Abbas and has to conceal this possible meeting, chances for negotiation look bleak.

Hillary ends quoting Yitzhak Rabin.  “The coldest peace is better than the warmest war.”

__________________________________________________________

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>

__________________________________________________________

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Today, after shuttling from Israel to Ramallah to Egypt conversing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brokered a Middle East cease fire that officially went into effect at 2 p.m. EST today.  In a courageous ascent to a  leadership position,  Egypt is sponsoring the cease-fire.  The encouraging news is being reported by all major news sources.

Here are some photos from her busy day of shuttle-diplomacy.

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God bless you, Mme. Secretary.  Now come home for Thanksgiving.   We are all thankful for your dedicated service.

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Having begun her long day by arriving a tad late for a bilateral between President Barack Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  Mme. Secretary hopped on her “Big Blue Bird” and took off for the troubled Middle East.  Her first stop was Israel where we see her with PM Benjamin Netanyahu.  From there, she will travel to Ramallah to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, and then to Cairo and a meeting with President Morsi.

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Adding in, here, an interesting and informative portion of today’s press briefing from Victoria Nuland.

TRANSCRIPT:

12:44 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND:All right. Happy Tuesday, everybody. I hope you all got the notice that the Secretary has split off from the presidential party now. She’s on her way to Jerusalem. She’ll have her first meeting there with Prime Minister Netanyahu shortly after landing. It’ll be quite late this evening in Jerusalem time. To the extent that we have information to read out from her various meetings, we will do that, but as you know, her formal press posture is that she’ll have sprays at each of those – of the meetings on this trip. So we’ll try to stay in touch with you over the next couple of days as this proceeds.

Why don’t we go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION:Do you have any news about Hamas claims that the calming down will take place tonight at 9 o’clock their time?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any specifics to report to you either with regard to the ground situation or with regard to the state of the diplomacy. As I said yesterday, the President, the Secretary, all of us are intensely involved here, but we’re not going to be sharing details in public until there’s something to report.

QUESTION: So is it fair to assume that Mrs. Clinton will oversee the signing of calming down between Israel and Hamas under the auspices of Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Again, as you know, intensive diplomacy is ongoing. The President and the Secretary have both been on the phone nonstop with regional leaders for a number of days. The purpose of her trip is to continue and intensify that engagement now, face to face, in service to the goal of trying to de-escalate this violence and restoring calm.

QUESTION: And lastly, should we interpret her trip as a good sign that there’s something in the offing, a calming down in the offing?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, I think we are all hoping for a de-escalation, we are all hoping for a restoration of calm, we’re all hoping to open space for deeper, broader conversations. That is obviously the goal we all share.

QUESTION: Ma’am —

MS. NULAND: Jill.

QUESTION: What about – Toria, realistically, what can the Secretary do? I mean, even if you look at a ceasefire or a calming down, a lot of that seems linked to larger issues, medium range or long range. It doesn’t appear that they are simply going to stop fighting, or at least Hamas, unless there is some resolution of other issues – issues that affect Gaza, for example. So what, realistically, do you think, even broadly, can she accomplish?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been saying for some time, we have to obviously start with a de-escalation of this conflict. We have to see an end to the rocket fire on Israel. We have to see a restoration of calm in Gaza. And the hope is that if we can get through those stages, that will create space for the addressing of broader issues, but I don’t want to prejudge. This is obviously ongoing and live diplomacy.

QUESTION: And just one other thing: Some have said that obviously she would not go if there were going to be a ground invasion at the time that she hits the runway. Is that a fair assumption, that she – that there was some sort of knowledge that the U.S. had that there would not be a ground invasion, ergo she wouldn’t go?

MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, I’m not in a position to speak to the ground situation at all, other than to say that I think all of the parties involved have expressed a preference to solve this peacefully, to solve this diplomatically. That is what we are all trying to support and assist, and that is what we are all hoping for.

QUESTION: On this point —

QUESTION: The United States —

MS. NULAND: Said. Said.

QUESTION: On this point, just a quick follow-up on this point, Israeli sources say that they want a period of 24 hour of calm before they sign any truce. Do you support or do you advocate such a – like a period of calm before signing anything?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position here to get into the substance of any of the discussions that are ongoing. There are a lot of discussions going on involving a lot of different parties. When there’s something to announce, I’m sure it will be announced, Said.

Sir, can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Yeah, Oren Dorell from USA Today. The Hamas leaders have said that they would like the blockade to be lifted as – if they’re to stop their rocket fire. What is the United States position on that?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re trying to take me into the tactics of diplomacy, the conversations that are ongoing among lots of different parties who are trying to support a de-escalation here. Don’t think that’s productive to the process for us to be getting into the back-and-forth here.

Samir.

QUESTION: What’s the Quartet doing in this crisis? Doing anything?

MS. NULAND: As a formal matter, the Quartet has not met, but as you know, the Secretary’s been in touch with Lady Ashton. In fact, she was in touch with some of her European counterparts today. She had phone calls with German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, French Foreign Minister Fabius again, with Quartet Representative Blair. The Quartet itself hasn’t met, but the Quartet envoys and representatives have all been active. As you know, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was just there. I think he may still be in the region, in fact.

Jill.

QUESTION: Toria, one more. Why was it so important for the Secretary to go? I mean, it involves the United States in a very obvious and maybe dangerous way because she will be on the ground in a – not physically, I mean, but diplomatically, it could all backfire. Why is it so important for her to go?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think, as we said in the statement that we released announcing her travel, and as Ben Rhodes said when he briefed the White House Press Corps earlier today from Phnom Penh, we have been, the President has been, she has been, actively engaged on the phone. But sometimes, there’s no substitution for showing up, as the Secretary herself likes to say, for talking face to face, for doing what you can in person. And the President and she obviously thought that her going and actually sitting down with leaders – with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, and with President Morsi – could help de-escalate the situation. So it was obviously important to leave no stone unturned.

QUESTION: Toria, I realize you don’t want to get into any of the details that we might find useful or helpful, but despite that, it is correct that the Administration would like to see this – any kind of de-escalation, whether that would be a formal ceasefire or an informal one side stops so the other side then stops; is that correct? You would just like to see – even if it’s temporary, fleeting, you would like to see a de-escalation of any kind; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: We have spoken about this in terms of a de-escalation, because that’s obviously a first step to help prepare the way for anything else. We obviously need to see this violence come down.

QUESTION: Right, right, but you would be happy with even an informal cessation of hostilities?

MS. NULAND: Again, beyond what we’ve said, I’m not going to characterize X as acceptable, Y as not acceptable. That’s a subject for negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, but I —

MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m not going to.

Nadia, please.

QUESTION: Wait, I’m not done.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m not done. I don’t understand why you can’t say that any halt in violence would be a good thing in the Administration’s eyes.

MS. NULAND: Any de-escalation is a step forward. We want to see this de-escalated.

QUESTION: Okay. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a durable – meaning long-lasting, a fixed period, six months, as long – at least at the beginning – as long as the fighting and the dying of people stops, that’s okay, at least in the short term; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I am not going to limit, characterize the steps necessary here —

QUESTION: Okay. Well, surely you’re not —

MS. NULAND: — because the parties are talking, we’re going to be part of that, and we’re not going to negotiate it here from the podium. We’re not going to characterize it here from the podium.

QUESTION: Well, okay, fine, but surely you’re not saying that you’re okay with the violence continuing, are you?

MS. NULAND: Matt, what have I said seven times now?

QUESTION: All right. Then – frankly, you’ve said a lot, but it hasn’t really amounted to an answer. So in his briefing —

MS. NULAND: We’re going to move on now. We’re going to move on to Nadia, please.

QUESTION: In his briefing —

MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Nadia. Go ahead, Nadia, please.

QUESTION: Toria —

QUESTION: In his briefing – in – I’m sorry, Toria. I’m not done, and this is an important question. In his briefing to the White House Press Corps, Ben Rhodes was asked why he would not use the word “ceasefire,” and he said that’s essentially – I’m paraphrasing – he said no, and then he proceeded not to use it again and instead talked about de-escalation.

Does the Administration have some aversion to calling this a ceasefire or – and if it doesn’t, why not just use it? And if it does, what’s the aversion?

MS. NULAND: You know very well from having watched these kinds of situations unfold that there are many ways that this can de-escalate. I’m not going to prejudge here, and I think Ben didn’t want to prejudge how it happens. So your six efforts to get us to do that are not going to be successful.

Nadia, go ahead.

QUESTION: Victoria –

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: — you know that the U.S. has been criticized for not taking a leading role earlier to end the conflict. Just to follow up on Jill’s questions, if you felt that the Secretary needed to be there physically to meet with the leaders, why didn’t she go there in the beginning of the conflict? Was it because she was in Asia or because of the calculated decision on your part that you needed to wait a few more days?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, both the President and the Secretary have been extremely active. As you can see, the President, I think, in the past 24 hours has spoken with Egyptian President Morsi, for example, some three times. The Secretary’s made more than a dozen phone calls. So we have been very active in supporting all of the various efforts to try to de-escalate this. The judgment was that it had gotten to a stage where actually sitting face to face was – would be of value, so that was the decision that the Secretary and the President made.

QUESTION: I just wondered, if it’s possible, to walk us through when that decision was taken. Is it because the Egyptians have said that now we are in the process of getting a ceasefire and it’s important for the Secretary to be there? Is this the precise timing for her to be in the region?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think the President and Secretary were obviously together; they had a chance to – they have been comparing notes over the last couple of days about how this situation has been evolving. And the conclusion was that her going personally and sitting with leaders who she knows well had the potential to be helpful to the various parties in trying to seek a de-escalation. So beyond that, I don’t want to parse it too finely, Nadia.

Anything else on this subject? Please, can you —

QUESTION: I have some more on the logistical —

QUESTION: Kimberly Halkett, Al Jazeera English.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering how helpful it will be, though, given the fact that the Secretary is only meeting with the Palestinian Authority leader, and, who is at odds with Hamas – given the fact that the U.S. is only speaking to one of the two sides in this conflict, how productive can these discussions really be?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been saying for some time, there are different leaders in the region, around the world, who have influence with different actors in this situation. So we have Egyptians and Turks and Qataris and others making very strong representations to Hamas. The Secretary obviously thought that it was important to see President Abbas in this – on this trip because he is the interlocutor and the representative legitimately elected of the Palestinian people with whom we interface. So that is the role that we will play. We will work with the Israelis, we will work with President Abbas, and we will work with President Morsi, and others have more direct influence than we do with Hamas.

QUESTION: But do you think by shutting out Khaled Meshaal that you are going to be able to help bring about something beyond a ceasefire, a lasting solution, as I think you called it?

MS. NULAND: Again, the first step is a de-escalation, which the hope is then that can create space for something deeper. But again, we have to take this one step at a time.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: Sorry, Toria, just a quick follow-up on the humanitarian situation.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: There has been reports by the Palestinian Red Crescent, by UNRWA, by ANERA, by almost everybody speaking of a difficult humanitarian situation – shortages in water, food, medicines and so on. Suppose there is a calming-down period; would the United States send in direct aid to Gaza?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to get ahead of where we are. But as you know, we have always supported the UN agencies and others providing humanitarian assistance through appropriate and agreed channels. Those channels do exist, and obviously the goal of all of this diplomacy is to relieve the suffering of civilians, whether they are Israelis or whether they are Palestinians.

QUESTION: So is it plausible just to break the blockade for a couple of days, or three days, or four days?

MS. NULAND: Again, there are established channels for getting humanitarian aid in, and those are the channels that should be used.

QUESTION: According to the U.S. officials, there are three —

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are, please?

QUESTION: Wi Xu Diao from CCTV. So according to two U.S. officials, there are – three U.S. Navy warships are sending to – near Israel to – just in case evacuation needed. So these are supposed to be – come back after Thanksgiving. Can you confirm that and when the – how long they will be delayed, for their homecoming?

MS. NULAND: The Pentagon has spoken to that issue today or yesterday in terms of contingency planning, so I’ll send you to them for any more detail.

Goyal, still on this subject?

QUESTION: Toria – no.

QUESTION: No. I have two more, one of which – I suspect one of which is easy, and one of which is logistical and it may have been asked already.

So just the first one, which I think is the easy one: Would you – you keep the phrase de-escalate – don’t worry, I’m not going to try and get you to change that, but when you – when the Secretary is in her talks, is it fair to say that she is less about an – less talking about an imminent de-escalation than in how to hold or make durable a longer-term solution? I mean, obviously she’s not involved in mediating a truce, or whatever you want to call it, between Hamas and Israel, because you guys don’t talk to Hamas. Is it her goal to try and make whatever might come out of negotiations – those negotiations that are going on, to make that hold and be longer than just some quick, temporary fix? Is that fair?

MS. NULAND: I think everybody involved in trying to support a de-escalation here wants to see not just a tactical end to the violence, but wants to see the conditions improve for being able to address some of the underlying issues. But the way that unfolds and how much is going to be possible in the next 36 hours I think very much depends on the meetings that she has and what she finds.

QUESTION: You don’t – are you saying that you don’t want to rule out the fact that she might get involved – and obviously not with Hamas directly, but that she might get involved in trying to mediate an initial de-escalation? You don’t want to rule that out, or is that something that is —

MS. NULAND: I think it completely depends on where the situation is in the – in four hours from now or six hours from now when she lands.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second one, which is logistical and may have been asked before, is that when she is in Egypt, when she goes to Cairo tomorrow, is she going to see anyone other than Morsi? Are there other people coming in to town, like the Turks? I mean, I know Ban Ki-moon is out there. Is she going to be seeing anyone other than the Egyptians in her short time in Cairo?

MS. NULAND: The current schedule that we have is the schedule that we announced, that she will, this evening, very late Jerusalem time, see Prime Minister Netanyahu; that she will early in the morning tomorrow see President Abbas in Ramallah; and then she’ll go to Cairo to see President Morsi. That’s all I have in terms of schedule. I don’t have anything else at the moment in terms of other meetings or other third-country representatives on this trip. But you know how these go. That could change, so stand by. If we have something to announce, we will.

Please.

QUESTION: How do you view the legal status of Gaza? Is it occupied? The Israelis are not there? Is it autonomous?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think our position on Gaza has changed. There’s nothing new there.

Please.

QUESTION: When you talk about improving conditions for addressing underlying issues, can you be any more clear about what issues you’re talking about?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s the full range of issues, but obviously this goes to the underlying security of Israel and that the end of attacks from Gaza into Israel should be halted not simply temporarily, but in a sustained way. It goes to the condition of civilians in Gaza. And it goes to the ability of Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the table about a lasting settlement, which is obviously the long-term solution for this.

QUESTION: Victoria.

MS. NULAND: Please on this, Samir – Said.

QUESTION: There were reports that there are a couple dozen servicemen, American servicemen, in – actually in southern Israel that were hurriedly removed for safety. Do you know anything about that? Do you know anything about (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. It sounds like something to ask the Pentagon. I don’t have anything on that.

Anything else on this subject?
QUESTION: Got one more logistical one that I forgot. Is she definitely coming directly back to Washington after Cairo or are you leaving open the possibility that she could make another stop, either in the region or in Europe, or, I don’t know, in Africa?
MS. NULAND: At the current moment, we have nothing after Cairo. If that changes, we’ll let you know.

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Among the bilaterals Mme. Secretary held yesterday were her meetings with Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.  Here is a snip from a senior State Department official’s briefing on those meetings.

Background Briefing on the Secretary’s Bilateral Meetings With Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Special Briefing

Senior State Department Official
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 26, 2012

MODERATOR: All right, everybody. Thank you for hanging with us for the late hour. We have with us [Senior State Department Official], hereafter Senior State Department Official, to talk to you both about the working lunch that the Secretary had with Jordanian King Abdullah, and also about the meeting that she just had with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Abbas. Take it away, [Senior State Department Official].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, thank you very much, and good evening. We might start with the working lunch that the Secretary had. It lasted about an hour. It was preceded by, oh, I don’t know, about 15-20 minutes of one-on-one time as well. It was over at the King’s Hotel at the Mandarin Oriental. And the participants in the lunch were, on our side, in addition to the Secretary, Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones, Special Envoy David Hale, (inaudible) the Policy Planning Chief, Jake Sullivan, on our side. And on their side it was the Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, the King’s Chief of Staff Imad Fakhoury, and their Ambassador to Washington Alia Bouran.

As you know, the relationship between Jordan and the United States is one of – it’s very, very close, and between the King and the Secretary and our leadership similarly one very close. So this was a good opportunity to compare notes about developments across the region that we and the King are both focused on.

I’d say that it really boiled down to three topics. One was Middle East peace and the Israeli-Palestinian set of issues. The second related to Syria, which of course is a major challenge for Jordan. And third, the internal reform agenda of the King and the people of Jordan.

On Middle East peace, the King has been a leader on this from the beginning. Most recently in January, he devoted a lot of time and energy and effort and showed great leadership and skill in bringing the parties together at a level below that of the leaders for a set of talks. He has been someone, along with the Foreign Minister, who has been in very close coordination with us on the way forward. We talked a bit about that, and certainly we understood that we can count on Jordan and his leadership when we need to, and we often do, to try to overcome the obstacles that are blocking the parties right now.

On Syria, I think that there was very lengthy discussion about the terrible situation there and the options to try to reverse that and change it. The humanitarian situation, which weighs very heavily on Jordan, was also a major theme – the refugee flows and the danger that there will be more to come into Jordan and the challenges and burdens that that poses on that country with its limited resources. The Secretary talked about what we could do to help the Jordanians bear that burden and to work with the international community and the UN and others to make sure that the resources were available for them to do that.

There was also a discussion, obviously, of the political situation there and how we would work together and work – and try to encourage the Syrian opposition to work together on a unity plan. And there was an agreement that we would be working and talking more about this on Friday when there is a Friends of the Syrian Opposition Ad Hoc meeting. So this is something that we’re both very much focused on. And of course, the Secretary made very clear our position on President Assad and the fact that he must go.

On the set of reform issues, the King was very upbeat and very optimistic about the direction things are going in and the pace at which they’re going in. Secretary Clinton welcomed the progress that has been made so far to broaden and deepen participation in the political process for all Jordanians, by all Jordanians, and expressed our support for pursuing that in the way that he described. That, in a nutshell, was the discussion with the Jordanians, so I move onto the Palestinians.

We had a meeting there with – at his hotel at the Grand Hyatt – that lasted for about half an hour, and then they had another 10 minutes or so one-on-one. In the larger meeting, participation on our side was Ambassador Susan Rice, Under Secretary of State Sherman, Michael Ratney, our Consul General in Jerusalem who came here for the meeting, Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones from the Near East Bureau, Special Envoy David Hale, and Policy Planning Director Jake Sullivan. On the Palestinian side the participants were their lead negotiator Saeb Erekat and key advisors to the President, Akram Haniyeh, Nabil Aburudainah, and their representative – the PLO representative in Washington, Maen Areikat.

The discussion also, as always I think with Abu Mazen, covered a whole range of issues. He is watching the region very closely and he has been a leader of the Palestinian people for a very long time, and his insights and observations are of great interest to us, and he shared them. They compared notes on really everything you could think of – Syria certainly, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, and all the changes going on around the Palestinians. And certainly, we recognize that these events reflect on the Palestinians and the choices that they have as they look at the future.


The Secretary also asked him about the situation in the West Bank and expressed her concern for what we’ve seen in terms of the financial and economic pressures and challenges that the Palestinian people are enduring and the Palestinian Authority trying to address. He went on at some length about that and about the difficulties.

We indicated that we are looking at every means we can to help the Palestinian Authority meet these financial challenges. There was a major event that we hold twice a year earlier this week. The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee met, chaired by the Norwegians and co-chaired by the United States and the EU, in which all the donors involved with the Palestinians came together and talked about ways in which they could help make a difference.
The Secretary also talked about our own assistance and the status of that as we work with our Congress to – the assistance package is now with the Hill, and her efforts to work with Congress so we could get that money to the Palestinian Authority, including a crucial $200 million in budget – direct budget support. And we also talked about what could be done on the ground, in the here and now, as Prime Minister Fayyad often calls it, to help overcome the difficulties.

We also, of course, turned to the Middle East peace process and the efforts that we’ve been working on to try to overcome the differences separating the parties, exchanged ideas on how to do that. And we certainly plan to continue our intensive work in that direction.

I think I’ll stop there….

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Remarks With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

 

Palestinian Presidential Compound
Ramallah
September 16, 2010

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) I warmly welcome Secretary Clinton to Ramallah today and I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts she is exerting, and also President Obama is exerting the American Administration in order to achieve peace in the region. I know that these are difficult times, circumstances are difficult, but unwavering American commitments and the tireless efforts give us hope that we will reach peace. We all know that there is no alternative to peace other than negotiating peace, so we have no alternative but to continue peace efforts.
I would like to introduce Secretary Clinton (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for not only receiving me here again in Ramallah with such warmth among now friends, but for your leadership and your commitment to peace for the Palestinian people. And as President Abbas said, the United States and all of us, led by President Obama, are very committed and determined to work toward a peace agreement through direct negotiations that leads to an independent, sovereign, viable Palestinian state that realizes the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Thank you, Mr. President.
PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible) handshake, Madam Secretary?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh. (Laughter.) Just like you were saying that you’d seen previous footage of Senator Mitchell in Damascus.
PRESIDENT ABBAS: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They could just bring out one of the hundreds of pictures of you and I shaking hands. (Laughter.)
Thank you.

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Well I see no statements as yet, but plenty of pictures out of Ramallah and Amman today, so here is our Hillary looking very sunny.
 

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