This position was reinforced when Kirby was asked to comment about whether there has been a change in Israeli policy on the Temple Mount. Arab leadership, religious and political, have spread rumors of efforts by Israeli to change the policy on the Temple Mount in order to inspire religious terrorist responses.
The AP’s Lee asked whether it was the Administration’s position that the status quo at the Temple Mount has been broken.
Kirby responded: “Well certainly, the status quo has not been observed, which has led to a lot of the violence.”
In fact, there has not been a change in policy regarding the Temple Mount, other than a recent prohibition directed at members of knesset from visiting the site. In other words, Israel preemptively sought to remove any potentially incendiary actions, or ones that could be interpreted that way.
Several hours after the briefing, Kirby sent out a tweet in which he sought to claim that he “did not intend to suggest that status quo at Temple Mount/Al Sharif was broken.” Well, that is what he said, hard to understand what else he could have intended by it.
What the State Department Spokesperson’s tweet should have said is that he was wrong to suggest the status quo was broken, and therefore, Israel was not responsible for any violent acts purporting to avenge dishonor to the Temple Mount.
One reporter pressed Kirby on Secretary Kerry’s upcoming visit to the region. The bottom line answer, of course, is to try and shove the parties along the path to the Two State Holy Grail.
MR KIRBY: The Secretary’s made clear his concerns over what’s going on there and his desire to travel to the region to engage and to discuss and to try to find ways to reduce the tensions, restore the calm, and then start to work collaboratively, hopefully, towards a two-state solution.
SAID ARIKAT, al Quds: John?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
ARIKAT: What would be the practical steps that both sides can take immediately to defuse the situation? What would be, like, practical suggestions to both sides that they must do now?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, I wouldn’t get too specific here. I think the Secretary spoke about this yesterday very clearly that the violence needs to stop. So to the degree leaders on either side can help lead to that outcome, that would be useful. The incitement needs to stop.
MR KIRBY: So to the degree to which leaders – whether they’re responsible for it or not, to the degree that they can contribute to an atmosphere which isn’t encouraging more violence, more killing, that would be useful. And then, again, to sort of put in place and then keep in place, maintain a sense of calm. All that would useful right now, and I think that’s really again where the Secretary’s head was yesterday. It’s where it is today, and it’s why he’s interested in pursuing travel there soon.
ARIKAT: For instance, the Israelis put a great many checkpoints in the last, let’s say, 24 hours in and around Arab neighborhoods, Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, and so on. Would that be something that the Secretary or you would call on the Israelis to undo, so to speak, to sort of – to alleviate some of the frustration or the feeling of being cooped in and so on by these young men and women?
MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t think it’s going to be useful for me to stake out a position on each and every decision that the Israeli security forces are making. They certainly have an obligation towards their citizens and we understand that. Again, what the Secretary wants to see is the violence cease.
ARIKAT: Mahmoud Abbas just made a speech, a short speech, a little while ago. I wonder if you’ve had the chance to see it.
MR KIRBY: I have not.
ARIKAT: But he’s – he’s basically accusing Israel of conducting summary executions, and so on. He’s threatening to take it to the international court – the International Criminal Court. He’s saying that we will not be held hostage to agreements that Israel is not adhering to, and so on. Apparently he’s talking about Oslo. He’s saying that the Palestinians must have a recourse to resist an occupation. Do you agree that the Palestinians must have some sort of a method or recourse, and so on, by which they oppose this occupation that has gone on for so long?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, without getting into specific terminology here, Said, what we would like to see is progress made on both sides in both rhetoric and in action towards a meaningful two-state solution. That is very difficult to get to, to even get to the process of pursuing that when there’s so much violence going on, which isn’t doing anything but spiraling the tension upward rather than downward. And so again, what we want to see is both sides take the actions to calm things down so that we can have meaningful discussions and progress towards a two-state solution. No one even bothered to point out that Abbas’s “short speech” is an effort to rouse anger and incite violence directed at Israelis.