Finally, after months of calmly responding to the incessant badgering by Palestinian Arab journalist Said Arikat to manipulate the State Dept. spokespeople into making statements that were then promoted as positions attacking Israel, State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby had enough.
Kirby, a pleasant looking former Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, is generally unflappable, with a calm demeanor and a quick smile lost his cool – as much as he was capable – at the Wednesday, Feb. 3 daily press briefing.
Kirby had just responded to Matt Lee, the Associated Press reporter, who asked whether the State Dept. was going to condemn the terrorist attack by Palestinian Arab terrorists on two border patrol policewomen at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, which took place earlier in the day.
Lee was asking because he wanted to know what was happening with the much heralded at the time – but now apparently forgotten – decision to place video cameras at the Temple Mount in an effort to find out who is behind the incitement.
Lee’s point is a valid one. At the time the announcement was made Secretary of State Kerry hailed the agreement between Jordan, which has ultimate authority over the Temple Mount, and Israel.
But the Palestinian Authority quickly opposed the cameras idea and the effort has been stalled ever since. [note: the cameras would not have captured this attack as the idea was for them to be placed on the Temple Mount and this attack took place just inside the Damascus Gate, in the Old City, but not on the Temple Mount.]
STATE DEPT CONDEMNED THE TERRORIST ATTACK ON ISRAELI BORDER POLICE
Kirby said on behalf of the State Dept. “we do strongly condemn the attack in Jerusalem today in which two border police officers were attacked with automatic weapons.
“As before, sadly, once again, we have to extend our deepest condolences to a mourning family and to friends and the community of the victim, and we wish the injured officer a full and complete recovery. As we’ve said before, there’s no justification for these attacks,” the spokesperson said.
What Kirby didn’t mention, but surely knew, was that the police officer who was murdered, Hadar Cohen, was a 19-year-old girl, and her fellow officer who was severely wounded was only 20 years old.
But Arikat could not allow to pass a single statement of compassion made by the U.S. towards Israel. Instead of simply moving on to another topic, Arikat, so conditioned to getting in the last word and twisting any comments into ones that can be construed as anti-Israel, had to take a stab.
ARIKAT:” But you’re not,” he started, “These border police units, they are part of an occupying force. Correct? You agree with that?
KIRBY: “the-they-this was border police officers that were on duty doing their job.”
ARIKAT: “No, I mean, I understand you want to condemn this and that’s your prerogative, but, I mean, the flip side of that – I mean,” Arikat stumbled about a bit, and then got to his point:”But how should the Palestinians respond to an overwhelming military presence that basically suffocates their lives? How – what they should do, in your opinion?“ (Emphasis added.)
And this is when Kirby, finally, lit into Arikat. He didn’t raise his voice and he didn’t use vulgar terms. But finally, after so many months, Kirby gave back to Arikat what Arikat should have been getting all along. Instead of allowing a reporter in the room to use the daily press briefing as an opportunity to aggressively lobby for his people’s political positions, Kirby shut down Arikat with a hard dose of truth.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus