QUESTION: Yeah, but do you tell the Egyptians or the Qataris or other people or other countries —
MR. TONER: And I’m not going to get into the substance of our phone calls —
QUESTION: No, no, no, no.
MR. TONER: — or our conversations with them, other than to say that we’re obviously consulting closely with them. We value their input on the security in the region.
QUESTION: Well, but the question is do you tell them to tell Hamas – do you tell people who have contacts with Hamas, since you don’t have any contacts with them, to cut it out?
MR. TONER: And I think I —
QUESTION: I mean, you go on the record all the time —
MR. TONER: I think I answered your question to say that, certainly, we ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation. I’ll leave it there.
QUESTION: All right. Well, why is it that you’re willing to say, “use influence in the region” but you’re not willing to say “with Hamas?”
MR. TONER: Because I – because that’s what I decided to say.
QUESTION: Mark, the Egyptian Prime Minister just announced that he’s going to Gaza tomorrow.
MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has he informed you of that? Have you discussed the content or the purpose of his visit?
MR. TONER: We haven’t. I don’t believe – I know the Secretary hasn’t had any conversations with her counterpart today. I can’t speak for the White House, obviously.
QUESTION: So do you expect this visit to actually mitigate the – sort of the tension that is ongoing, or delay (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: I think there’s one clear way to mitigate the tensions, and that is for Hamas to stop its rocket attacks on Israel so we can de-escalate the situation and end the violence. That’s the clearest path.
QUESTION: Okay. We understand. But are you dissuading or are you telling Israel not to conduct a major land invasion of Gaza, a la Cast Lead back in 2008, 2009?
MR. TONER: We’re obviously in close consultation with Israel, as you well know. The President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. Let me finish. Let me be very clear that Israel has a right to self-defense. As of yesterday, I believe the Israeli Government noted that since the beginning of 2012, more than 768 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza, and over 12,000 in the past 12 years, and I believe over a hundred today alone. They have a right to self-defense.
QUESTION: Are —
MR. TONER: The onus – let me be very clear – the onus here is on Hamas. And as Jay Carney just said from the White House, it claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, but through its actions it’s showing a far different agenda.
QUESTION: Are you counting the number of rockets and air raids that Israel has conducted on Gaza into (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Again, we need to see Hamas stop its rocket attacks and then we can see a de-escalation of the violence.
QUESTION: Do the Palestinians in Gaza have the same right to self-defense?
MR. TONER: This is violence instigated by Hamas. We have – as we’ve said very clearly in our statement yesterday, that we extend our sympathies to the victims, innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians that have been affected by this violence. But let’s be very clear where the onus likes.
Go ahead, Said – Samir.
QUESTION: No, no I just – I was going to say you quoted Mr. Carney, but he said the same thing you said yesterday yourself in your statement.
MR. TONER: We’re in lockstep, I guess.
Yeah. Anything else on Hamas? Or in Israel, Gaza?
QUESTION: Yeah. Which is the reason that you think that Hamas was attacking Israel? Do you think it has any connection with the Syria situation?
MR. TONER: I have no idea. You’ll have to ask them.
QUESTION: Egypt recalls its ambassador in Tel Aviv. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. TONER: No. I mean, look, you’ll have to ask the Egyptian Government to explain its actions, but we’ve been in close contact, as Matt pointed out, with Morsi and the Secretary with her counterpart. We’re consulting with them closely. We both agree on the fundamental point that there needs to be a de-escalation here so that the violence can stop.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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