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AP's Matt Lee Grills State Dept's Jen Psaki Over John Kerry's "Apartheid" Remarks About Israel

MATT LEE, AP: I’ve got to go back to the secretary’s comments on Friday – to come at this from two ways. One, do you at least, or does he at least acknowledge that using a term like apartheid is offensive to a lot of Israelis and pro-Israel supporters?

JEN PSAKI: Well, I think his meaning of any comments he makes is his support for a two-state solution and his belief that it’s hard to see how the parties can prosper without it.

LEE: Right. Well, I understand. But using this word, the β€œA word,” I guess we can call it, is kind of a touch-button issue for many in the pro-Israel community, and many Israelis. Is the secretary aware of that?

PSAKI: Matt, I think many officials have used similar phrases that have been reported, and he’s aware of that as well.

LEE: Then β€” you mean many Israeli officials. How about American officials, who are supposed to be β€” you know, you guys are supposed to be the neutral β€” you know, the arbiter, the honest broker here. Are you aware of any other current β€” or an American official who has used apartheid while they were in the middle or still trying to β€” maybe near the end of a negotiation?

PSAKI: Well, Matt, he certainly didn’t say β€œis.” He said β€” reports are that –

LEE: Right, I’m not saying he said that it is. We’ll get to that in a second, because that’s the other side of the coin here. But he did use the word, unless I’m mistaking you β€” your explanation. Does he understand that using that word β€” whether he said β€œis,” β€œwas,” β€œmay be,” β€œcould be,” β€œdefinitely will be,” β€œdefinitely won’t be” β€” that that is a loaded term that’s going to cause a long of angst and a lot of, you now, indignation, whether one believes that that indignation is faux or not?

PSAKI: We’re certainly all familiar with the term, but I don’t have any other commentary for all of you on his –

LEE: All right. From the other side of the β€” from the other perspective ve here, which is the Palestinian perspective, there are a lot of people who are pro-Palestinian who would argue that in fact Israel is now an apartheid state. You’re saying that you don’t β€” that the secretary does not believe that. Can I ask you why he does not share the views of those β€” of those pro-Palestinians?

PSAKI: Because he believes that Israel is a vibrant democracy with equal rights for its citizens.

LEE: Right, but it’s also β€” it is also an occupying power, correct?

PSAKI: We’re all familiar with circumstances in the region.

LEE: OK. And people under β€” and people β€” and people β€” not every person who lives under Israeli authority is an Israeli citizen with equal rights, is that correct?

PSAKI: Matt, we are all β€” we’re all familiar with the reasons why we’re β€” we’ve been β€” he has been so β€” putting so much effort into pursuing a peace process. But that doesn’t change his view on Israel currently.

LEE: Right, but you do accept that there are people who live under Israeli administration, live under Israeli authority right now, who do not have equal rights, correct?

PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to analyze this further.

LEE: Well, I mean, look, the secretary is getting it from both sides here. The pro-Israel people are furious that he would even deign to utter the word β€” the β€œA” word even if it was referring to something happening in the future, or possibly happening in the future. The other side is upset that the secretary is not using it β€” using the β€œA” word to describe how Israel is right now. Given that β€” given that circumstance β€” you acknowledge that that’s the situation, right?

PSAKI: Mmm hmm.

Q: OK. Was using the word smart? Does the secretary understand that using a loaded term like that is going to cause him a lot of grief?

PSAKI: I’m just not going to give any analysis on that, Matt. (via Free Beacon)

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