The State Department announced on Monday that no meetings in the Israeli-Palestinian talks had been canceled but could not confirm that a previously scheduled meeting happened. That and more bizarre answers frustrated the press pool during the daily press briefing.
QUESTION: Yeah, I do. All right. So tell us what is going on or what happened or did not happen in Jericho today.
MS. HARF: Ah, okay.
MS. HARF: Yes. So I can assure you that no meetings have been canceled. I know there was some confusion about this.
QUESTION: Marie, let me just stop you right there.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: That is not the question. My question is: Can you tell –
MS. HARF: I was going to get there.
QUESTION: Oh, you were? Okay, good.
MS. HARF: But it’s okay.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. HARF: Do you want to ask it again?
QUESTION: No, no, no, no. Finish.
MS. HARF: Okay. As we’ve said repeatedly, we’re not going to read out or announce every meeting that happens in the Middle East peace process as they’re ongoing. I can assure you, contrary to some reports, that no meetings have been canceled. We’ve been clear that the two parties are engaged in serious and sustained negotiations.
QUESTION: All right. There was a meeting scheduled to take place today between the Israelis, Palestinians, and possibly with an American – with Americans present at some or all in Jericho. Did that meeting go ahead?
MS. HARF: As I said before, we’re not going to make announcements about every single meeting, but I can assure you that there have been no cancelations of meetings.
QUESTION: Does that mean that this meeting happened?
MS. HARF: I’m going to repeat the same line back to you, Matt.
QUESTION: I don’t –
MS. HARF: As we’ve repeatedly said, we’re not going to confirm every meeting that takes place. I’ve said that from the beginning. I know it’s frustrating for everyone that we’re not going to, but that’s where we’re going to be on this.
QUESTION: No, it’s not frustrating. I find it entertaining that you’re unable to give a straight answer –
MS. HARF: I just gave you a straight answer.
QUESTION: — to whether a meeting took place. No, you didn’t.
MS. HARF: I’m not going to confirm whether or not it took place —
QUESTION: But no meeting –
MS. HARF: — as we’ve said from the beginning.
QUESTION: — has been canceled?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: So that means that all scheduled meetings were going – will go ahead – have gone ahead?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. And the meeting – there was a meeting scheduled for today in Jericho.
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to –
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MS. HARF: — confirm every specific meeting that we have as part of this process.
QUESTION: But you just said that – it’s either yes – it has to be one or the other –
MS. HARF: It doesn’t.
QUESTION: — because you said no meetings are being canceled, but you can’t say that it took place today?
MS. HARF: Correct. Yes.
QUESTION: So that’s –
MS. HARF: We are not going to confirm from this podium every single meeting or whether meetings happen. When there are misconceptions out there about whether something’s taken place or whether something’s been canceled, we will endeavor to clear those up as necessary.
QUESTION: But you’re not clearing it up. You’re making it even more confusing.
MS. HARF: Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. Again, we are not going to announce or confirm every meeting. We’re just not.
QUESTION: But you’ll deny a cancelation.
MS. HARF: That any meetings were canceled. Correct.
QUESTION: Was that postponed?
QUESTION: Do you —
MS. HARF: No, no – not postponed or canceled.
QUESTION: Look, I can appreciate the sensitivity of this and why —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — you’re beating around the bush, but please don’t try and say that you’re making it clear when you’re making it unclear. You’re —
MS. HARF: I don’t understand what’s not clear about saying I’m not going to confirm every meeting. You can ask —
QUESTION: But you just said that no meetings have been canceled —
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: — but you can say that it took place.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So that means – what does that mean?
MS. HARF: It means that I’m not going to confirm when meetings took place. There were rumors —
QUESTION: It means —
MS. HARF: No, no, Elise, that’s not fair.
QUESTION: It means nothing.
MS. HARF: Look, when some – when there are press reports out there that a meeting’s been canceled, I’m going to say, generally speaking, no meetings have been canceled. I’m not going to stand here —
QUESTION: So if it wasn’t canceled, then it took place?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to stand here and tell you a meeting took place and when and where and who was involved. And that’s going to be the case for the rest of this nine months, people, so get ready for it, and you can keep asking the questions and you’re going to keep getting the same response.
QUESTION: So we should get accustomed to more confusing non-denials and denials?
MS. HARF: You should get accustomed to us not announcing when meetings are taking place necessarily in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Yes.
QUESTION: But if you’re going to clear up misconceptions, then just clear it up. Don’t —
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — say you’re going to clear it up and then not clear it up.
MS. HARF: I’ll take your advice onboard going forward.
QUESTION: In retrospect, was it a mistake to say that there would be a second meeting in Jericho when you announced the first one?
MS. HARF: No, not at all.
QUESTION: Oh? So – but then you can’t say if it actually happened or not? I might be able to be – I would be more sympathetic to your position or your case here if you hadn’t ever announced that the meeting in Jericho was going to happen, but you did. Okay?
MS. HARF: Right. And I don’t have anything —
QUESTION: So from going —
MS. HARF: — to announce on it.
QUESTION: From now, going forward, if you don’t want to be caught in this verbal trapeze act that you’re involved in, don’t announce that there’s going to be a meeting in the first place and then say you can’t say that it – whether it happened or not.
MS. HARF: Again, we will announce – at times announce meetings when we feel it’s important to do so. And when we don’t, we will not announce every meeting.
QUESTION: So when things are going —
MS. HARF: And I’m not looking for your sympathy on this, either, Matt.
QUESTION: So when – okay. Well, that’s good because you don’t really have it. So the answer is that when the meeting – when things are going well, you’ll talk about it. But when they’re going bad, you’ll refuse to —
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t read anything —
QUESTION: — you’ll refuse to talk about it.
MS. HARF: No, I think that’s a – I think that’s a leap in assumption that is in no way based up by any facts that you have.