The first half of State Dept. Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner’s daily press briefing Tuesday was devoted to the allegations that the Obama Administration conspired with the PA on the text and the timing of the UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the 1967 liberated territories. Compared with the usual press briefing, where spokespeople are expected to lie some of the time, this one stood out as an all-lies, all the time kind of performance on behalf of Mr. Toner.
At one point, Toner was asked: “There’s a report in an Egyptian newspaper about the meeting between Secretary Kerry, Susan Rice, Saeb Erekat, and [Palestinian security chief Maj. Gen. Majid] Faraj. And they’re reporting that Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Rice said the United States was ready to support a balanced resolution in the Security Council, and there also was some discussion about moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and that Saeb Erekat said if that happened, [then] throughout the Arab world Americans would be kicked out. Can you confirm or discuss whether this conversation, in fact, happened?”
It should be noted that this reported got it almost completely right, except that instead of Faraj, the other PA senior official was UN envoy Ryad Mansour.
Toner apologized that he couldn’t answer the question because “I just don’t know. I don’t have that level of detail. I just got a roadie note here, though. Sorry…” Then he added, “But just an update, because I was deliberately vague because I did not have a readout – but in fact, we did not discuss any language or give any indication whatsoever about a US position on a settlements UNSCR in either the meeting with Erekat or in New Zealand.”
So, that’s one big, fat lie. We now have the transcript of that Dec. 15 meeting in Washington, between Kerry, Rice, Erekat and Mansour.
Next question: “The Israeli officials are now being quoted as saying that they have evidence that they will lay out to the Trump administration of – in which the US, specifically Kerry, had discussions with the Palestinians before the vote, a few weeks before, during a visit to Washington where Saeb Erekat was around, and basically that he pushed them to go to Egypt and to move ahead with this resolution. So the question is: Was the US hiding behind this other group of countries to submit the resolution? Were those discussions ever taken place? Because the Israelis feel that they’ve got evidence that there was meddling by the Americans.”
Toner: “We’ve obviously seen the same reports, an amalgamation of different allegations that somehow this was US-driven and precooked. What I’ll say is that we reject the notion that the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. That’s just not true.
“The United States did not draft this resolution, nor did it put it forward. It was drafted and initially introduced, as we all know, by Egypt, in coordination with the Palestinians and others. When it was clear that the Egyptians and the Palestinians would insist on bringing this resolution to a vote and that every other country on the council would, in fact, support it, we made clear to others, including those on the Security Council, that further changes were needed to make the text more balanced. And that’s a standard practice on – with regard to resolutions at the Security Council. So there’s nothing new to this.”
That’s the second big fat lie, as proven by the Egyptian media transcript. Here comes the third one, more nuanced, but just as fat:
Toner: “Of course, as the draft or the text was circulated, we said to those on the Security Council what further changes were needed to make the text more balanced. And in fact, we ended up abstaining because we didn’t feel it was balanced enough in the sense of it didn’t hit hard enough on the incitement-to-violence side of the coin.”
Question: “At what stage did you intervene to try and balance? Was it after Egypt said they’d withdraw it?”
Toner: ” I don’t have a date certain. It was once the Egyptians and Palestinians made it clear that they were going to advance this text or bring this resolution to a vote and that, in fact, it would be supported by other countries.”
Question: “Does that date predate Mr. Erekat’s visit to the State Department?”
This question was crucial, as far as the US-PA conspiracy is concerned. The Erekat visit was on Dec. 15, the vote on the Egyptian resolution was scheduled for Dec. 22.
Toner: “I don’t know the date of his visit. And I’m not necessarily excluding that when he did visit the State Department that they didn’t discuss possible resolutions or anything like that in terms of draft language. But again, there was no – nothing precooked. There was nothing – this was not some move orchestrated by the United States.”
Question: “Could you be clear what you just said? I heard a double negative in there. You’re not precluding that they didn’t discuss it. Are you saying that when the Palestinians were here –”
Toner: “I said I can imagine that they talked about Middle East peace broadly and efforts to reinvigorate the process. I don’t know that they discussed the possible action at the UN. But of course, that was something that was in the mix for some months now in New York at the UN that there might be some action taken there.”
Question (a minute later): “But you advised them on how to put together a motion that the United States would feel comfortable abstaining or voting in favor of?”
Toner: “Well, I think what we said is… of course we would provide input on what we believed was language that didn’t pass or didn’t allow us to vote for it.
Question: “You didn’t just say bring whatever motion you like up and we’ll vote however we feel about it. You were encouraging them to bring forward a motion that you would feel comfortable not blocking.”
Toner: “Well, but we have to be really careful in how we’re talking about this because what the allegations. […] I’m saying that some of the allegations out there, frankly, are implying that this was somehow orchestrated action by the US to pass a resolution that was negative about settlement activity in Israel, and the fact is that that’s just not the case.
“Of course, we would always provide, when the final text was going up for a vote, our opinion on where the red lines were. But I think that this is all a little bit of a sideshow, to be honest, that this was a resolution that we could not in good conscience veto because it condemns violence, it condemned incitement, it reiterates what has long been the overwhelming consensus international view on settlements, and it calls for the parties to take constructive steps to advance a two-state solution on the ground. There was nothing in there that would prompt us to veto that type of resolution.”
There were many more lies in that Tuesday, Dec. 27 press briefing, but they were mostly repetitions of the big lie: the US never orchestrated the UNSC vote, and it didn’t participate in drafting the resolution.
Let’s all wait three weeks and see how this pack of lies is blown open, maybe, since the next Secretary of State surely will have in his possession the full transcript of that Dec. 15 meeting.