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March 1, 2015 / 10 Adar , 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jen Psaki’

State Dept. Admits Even Obama Is not ‘Infallible’

Friday, February 27th, 2015

U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not infallible and therefore may be wrong in opposing a potential “bad” deal with Iran.

Pressed by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee if the pope and President Barack Obama also are not infallible, she admitted everyone is.

The questioning was in response to Secretary John Kerry’s testimony at Congress where he questioned Netanyahu’s judgment for supporting the 2003 war in Iraq.

Lee asked, “I’m wondering if you can explain a bit more about what he[Kerry] meant since there were a lot of people, including himself at one point, who were supporters of that war, and why this makes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judgment suspect and does not make anyone else’s judgment suspect….. I’m sure that there may be other things that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been wrong about.”

Psaki performed some fancy verbal acrobatics and said that Kerry’s”point was about where we are with the Iran negotiations, and that we have to look at all of the options, look at all of the information that’s available, to – and have an open mind about how to approach this. And that’s what he’s asking from the prime minister.”

When Psaki agreed with Lee that “no one is infallible,” not even the pope or the president, he persisted:

if no one is infallible, how is it possible that Prime Minister Netanyahu here in his opposition to a potential Iran deal is wrong and you guys are all right?….

It’s the approach that the prime minister has an issue with, not the goal that you both – that I think he would say that you share with him. Psaki said the Obama administration does not agree that its approach to the Iranian nuclear threat is the problem. She adds that Netanyahu is wrong because he is part of an “effort to prejudge an outcome when the details are not yet known.”

But enough of the details are known.

There is a scary parallel between the “negotiations” with Iran and the U.S.-led negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Technically, details of a final agreement were not known, but the Palestinian Authority gradually ruled out compromise on virtually all issues, leaving as “details” its demands that were evolving into a de facto final agreement.

Netanyahu finally drew the line after his own administrations, as well as those under Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, caved in time after time.

Instead of a “bad deal, there was no deal, forcing the Palestinian Authority to go to the United Nations to try to force an agreement on Israel and prove to the world that Ramallah really was not interested in negotiations.

Kerry and Obama failed in the “peace process.” They blamed Mahmoud Abbas, no less than Netanyahu, for the failure.

They proved that they, even more than Netanyahu, are not infallible.

US Insists Israel in the Loop on Nuclear Talks with Iran

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

The Obama administration is keeping Israel up to date on talks with Iran for an agreement to contain and supervise its nuclear program despite reports that Washington is fed up with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu because of his planned speech in Congress next month.

“Conversations continue with Israel on the Iran nuclear negotiations, State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

She cited as examples a meeting between Under Secretary Sherman and Israeli NSA Cohen and the Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning Steinitz in Munich and a subsequent meeting this week. “Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of negotiations,” according to Psaki.

“As you know, Secretary Kerry regularly speaks to the prime minister about this issue, as well as many others,” she added, “And as our NSC colleagues have noted, NSA – National Security Advisor Rice maintains regular contact with her Israeli counterpart, National Security Advisor Cohen, on the full range of issues, including, of course, this issue…

“And reports that that has been cut off or we are no longer consulting are simply inaccurate…. As it relates to our relationship with Israel, our consultations on Iran are ongoing at many levels and many, many high levels, and reports over the weekend are just inaccurate.”

US Shutters Yemen Embassy as Shiite Rebels Take Over Country

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Late Tuesday, Feb. 10, the U.S. State Department announced it was suspending all embassy operations in Yemen, and that it had evacuated its U.S. Embassy American Staff.

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen is located in the capital city of Sana’a.

The announcement further advised that all consular services, whether routine or emergency, had been suspended until further notice. It advised all Americans in Yemen, including those who live there, to leave, and further advised against travel to Yemen. Any U.S. citizens currently in Yemen were advised to contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country for assistance in leaving.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the diplomatic personnel who were still in Yemen were evacuated “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.”

The Iranian-backed Sunni Houthi rebels for years controlled northern parts of Yemen. They became emboldened over the past few months and earlier this month stormed the capital, seizing control of the president’s palace, which is also located in Sana’a.

The U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi resigned, along with his cabinet,  after the Houthis dissolved the government and placed him and his cabinet ministers under house arrest. The Houthis and the Yemeni government had been engaged in power-sharing negotiations when the rebels decided they had sufficient power to completely take over.

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen joins with U.S. embassies in Damascus, Syria and Tripoli, Libya, as the third in an Arab country shuttered since the Arab spring began in December 2010.

“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous and unified Yemen,” Psaki said. “We will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves.”

Arab Reporter Lobbies State Dept. for ‘More Aid to PA and Gaza’

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Said Arikat is the Washington, D.C.-based reporter for the Palestinian Arab Al-Quds newspaper. So what? Well, it matters because Arikat has found an amazing pulpit from which he ensures that the Palestinian Arab viewpoint of just about every major event is heard.

Arikat is thus able to have a grossly disproportionate impact on the huge media outlets who are represented in those press briefings, as well as on U.S. officials who staff and monitor them.

How does Arikat do that? He is part of the Washington press corps and a permanent, and extremely voluble fixture in the U.S. State Department daily press briefings.

From that perch, Arikat patiently, painstakingly, day in and day out articulates the Palestinian Authority’s agenda in the guise of questions about the Middle East conflict, shamelessly couched in advocate’s terms, not those of an objective journalist.

The State Department spokespeople typically respond to Arikat as if he were a lovable, goofy child, one they try to humor. But Arikat is ready with his agenda at each session, and he likes to make sure that the points that matter for his purposes are discussed over and over again, sometimes for days at a time. The State Department almost always obliges.

Here’s just one example from a briefing that took place last Thursday.

During the session, Arikat raised an issue that had been discussed earlier in the week: whether Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had acted inappropriately by not mentioning Sen. John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress when Dermer had a meeting with Secretary of State Kerry.

Arikat was following up a series of questions that had already been raised and put completely to rest by Matt Lee, of the Associated Press. Lee acknowledged that the spat over the invitation to Netanyahu had been exhaustively discussed earlier, but he asked about a New York Times article published that day, quoting anonymous sources criticizing Dermer.

Psaki pointed out that she had no idea who the anonymous source was, but assured Lee and everyone else in the room that only official, non-anonymous sources could speak for the State Department’s position. Case closed? Not for Arikat.

This is how that portion of Arikat’s “questioning” went:

ARIKAT: I have a couple question on Israel, but I wanted to ask you about the ambassador. You do believe that what he did was actually breach diplomatic protocol? Did he?

MS. PSAKI: I think we spoke about this pretty extensively last week, Said.

ARIKAT: To hear it again, he did breach diplomatic –

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we need to repeat it. I think we can point to the –

ARIKAT: Okay. All right. Let me ask you –

MS. PSAKI: — twenty times I said it last week. Go ahead.

Arikat was able to extend a “discussion” regarding a very sore point between the U.S. and Israeli governments, by asking the State Department to comment on accusations against Israel that had already, numerous times, been discussed and dismissed.

Arikat’s technique is simple but quite effective: he keeps circling back to get across his points. As in this example, he is not really asking a question, which is all that reporters are supposed to do in these government press briefings. And yet he gets this prime airtime nearly every single day.

In this particular briefing, however, Arikat did something which should have set off virtual alarm bells even at Foggy Bottom. It says a lot that no one even flinched, because it was Arikat who has gotten away with so much for so long, that it’s simply expected.

Arikat actually lobbied the State Department to increase its funding of the Palestinian Authority. He’s a journalist, remember, not a diplomat. And he’s making his demand for money at a press briefing!

A press briefing is where the government department providing the briefing is supposed to be putting out information on what it is doing and what its positions are – not receiving requests for goodies from supplicants (through their advocates) around the world. Yet no one batted an eyelash.

Here’s the bulk of the conversation, to see the complete exchange, please check the transcript.

ARIKAT: — some Israeli issues. The Israelis today cut off electricity or reduced the electricity to the Palestinian Authority areas, saying that they owe them about $450 million or something to that effect accumulated over the last few years, that of course coming at a time when the Palestinians claim that you have reduced their aid to them by a huge amount, more than 50 percent. Is there anything that you can do perhaps –

MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, Said, on the second piece, I think I’ve spoken to this several times in here about the fact that reports or claims that we have reduced our aid or changed our aid are not accurate. Our aid is continuing.

On the first piece, I have not seen those reports. I don’t have confirmation of them. I’m happy to talk to our team about it.

ARIKAT: Well, the Israelis, I mean, they announced that the Palestinian Authority said yes, it’s true, they reduced their electricity. Is there something that you can do in this case, perhaps infuse the Palestinian Authority with some emergency funds to deal with this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we provide a range of funds to the Palestinians. That’s continued. I’ll talk to our team and see if this is an issue that we’re closely tracking.

[Emphasis added.]

Really? That is what a journalist is doing? And the State Department’s response? Oh, we’ll look right into that and see what we can do.

Finally Arikat, ever the advocate, mournfully explains that the Secretary of the Arab League and the Secretary General of the United Nations had both mentioned that day that the situation in Gaza was deteriorating.

Arikat tied those comments to a recent discussion about donor nations not having yet fulfilled their pledges to Gaza. He also suggested that the U.S. had decreased its funding, a point Psaki rejected when she was able to get in a word edgewise. Nonetheless, Arikat essentially pleads the case for additional Gaza funding because – and here he puts on a sad face –  “the new school semester is starting.”

There is not another member of the Washington press corps who wields his position in the briefing room as an advocacy tool. Oftentimes reporters are dogged in their efforts to extract information the State Department spokesperson is choosing not to address head-on, but no reporter consistently advocates a particular nationalistic viewpoint as Arikat does.

And so The Jewish Press plans to have as a semi-regular news feature about Said Arikat and his lobbying from the State Department Press Briefing Room. It will be called “Said Says.” Watch for it.

State Dept. Says Taxpayers’ Money not Used in V-15 Campaign

Friday, January 30th, 2015

The U.S. State Dept. said Thursday the American government used to fund the left-wing OneVoice group that is campaigning against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu but that no grants were given after last November.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, “The U.S. Government grant to OneVoice Israel was for $233,500. The duration of this grant, as I mentioned yesterday but just to reconfirm, was from September 23rd, 2013 through November 30th, 2014.

” No payment was made to OneVoice after November 2014.”

The grant was for a project “to support a two-state solution,” she said.

Concerning allegations that the State Dept. is funding a campaign to dump Netanyahu, she said, “No. It’s an absolutely false report. The reports were stemming from inaccurate reporting – and a lack of reporting, perhaps I should say, on this grant that I’ve given you many details on.”

The question remains why the U.S.  government has to grant organizations money to promote the “two-state solution.”

Apparently, it wants to share the failure with others.

 

 

US ‘Condemns’ Hezbollah Attack on IDF

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Secretary of State spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a statement on behalf of the United States late Wednesday night (Israel time) strongly condemning Hezbollah’s attack from Lebanon on “IDF forces.”

Israel’s “greatest friend and ally” correctly the attack was a violation of the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War but failed to say that in fact the attack was not directed solely at Israel’s army but rather at Israeli civilians as well. It was directed at all Israelis.

Six deadly missiles were fired into northern Israeli territory from a distance of approximately three kilometers deep into southern Lebanon, reaching at least two kilometers into northern Israel. They struck a convoy in which civilian vehicles were traveling as well as two completely unprotected IDF jeeps that were clearly not armored and not intended for military conflict.

Two IDF soldiers were killed, two IDF vehicles were incinerated, and seven other soldiers were wounded. Civilians in the cars that followed were severely traumatized and a few were injured. A civilian home in a Druze village, Ghajar, also was struck by a missile, caught fire and was destroyed. That civilian family is now homeless and other civilians in that village and others were also severely traumatized by the attack and the battle that followed, which also cost a UNIFIL peacekeeper from Spain his life.

This was not a military operation aimed at military engagement. This was a terrorist attack on a random target traveling on a civilian road and a random civilian home in a civilian village. Hezbollah was aiming at civilians, in fact.

The United States has deliberately chosen to ignore these inconvenient and uncomfortable facts in its statement of condemnation. Also missing from the statement is the word “terror.”

That’s odd, since Hezbollah appears on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations but then again, the Obama administration has from the start refused to use the term “Islamist” when discussing terror. Instead it refers to “radical extremism” or “extremist attacks.”

The terms make no sense since extremism cannot be anything other than radical and none of the attacks that have taken place in the past six years of the Obama administration have been associated with anything else other than radical Islamist terror groups. The policy is disingenuous at best.

Perhaps the real issue is connected to Iran and its current round of talks with world powers over “limiting” its nuclear development activities. As if Tehnran actually intends to honestly comply with such an agreement, even if one is reached.

Here’s the statement issued by the State Department. At least it actually condemns the correct side; that’s something anyway.

“The United States strongly condemns Hezbollah’s attack today from Lebanon on Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in blatant violation of the cease fire between Lebanon and Israel and UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks. We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and continue to urge all parties to respect the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon. We urge all parties to refrain from any action that could escalate the situation.

“We are deeply concerned by reports of injuries and casualties on both sides of the Blue Line, including the reported deaths of IDF soldiers and the death of a Spanish UN peacekeeper from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). We extend our sincere condolences to the victims’ families. We also stand with UNIFIL as it fulfills its important mandate to maintain peace and security along the Blue Line.

“Hezbollah continues to incite violence and instability inside Lebanon by attacking Israel and by its presence and fighting inside Syria, which violates Lebanese leaders’ agreed policy of dissociating Lebanon from foreign conflicts.”

US-Backed Yemeni President and Entire Gov’t Resigns

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

The Iranian-backed Shia Houthi rebels captured Sana’a, the capital of Yemen in September. For the past two days the rebels surrounded President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s palace. On Thursday, Jan. 22, the president and his cabinet resigned.

Although Hadi had reportedly made concessions to the Houthis so that they would withdraw from the grounds surrounding his house, the rebels refused to leave.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the U.S. is assessing and seeking confirmation of the report of Hadi’s resignation.

In addition to the president and his cabinet, the entire government also submitted its resignation.

It is unclear who is in control of the Yemeni government at this moment, but the fear is that al-Qaeda, which has a strong presence in the country, will seize greater control.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/us-backed-yemeni-president-and-entire-govt-resigns/2015/01/22/

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