Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry’s Trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah
MODERATOR: So just for the purposes of the transcript this is a background briefing with a Senior State Department Official who will be previewing the Secretary’s trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week. And obviously, [Senior State Department Official] will start off with a few opening comments and then take some questions. And can you see everyone, [Senior State Department Official]?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, you all look beautiful.
MODERATOR: Okay. Great. (Laughter.) Everyone’s in their New Year’s Eve best. Excellent. So with that, we’ll turn it over to you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, [Moderator]. Thank you, everybody, and my sincere apologies for the delay. I had to speak to the Secretary. It’s the best excuse I know, but I hope you’ll forgive me.
Quite looking forward to seeing you day after tomorrow and starting the new year with a special effort to try to move the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations forward. As you know, we’ve had about 20 rounds of negotiations on the formal track. Those have been intensive. They have covered all of the core issues. We were able to establish the areas of agreement between the parties and overlap, and the areas of disagreement. We were able to probe those issues, kick them up to the leaders’ level, where the Secretary – on eight trips and long and intensive dialogue, conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – was able to also probe their positions on these issues, have this prolonged, I think, five-month effort.
We, I think, have established very well where the gaps are, but also established some – or generated some ideas that could help to serve as ways of bridging those gaps. The Secretary’s trip this time is to start to test those ideas with the two leaders. He will be in intensive – I shouldn’t call them negotiations, but conversations with both of them about those ideas. And we’ll see how effective they are in bridging the gaps and then assess where we go from there.
As you will have seen from the press, and indeed President Obama has spoken about the idea of establishing a framework for negotiations, that’s what we’re trying to achieve here – agreement on a framework that would serve as guidelines for the permanent status negotiations and that would address all of the core issues.
We are not coming in with an American plan that would be imposed on the parties, but rather we want to have a detailed consultation with them about these ideas that have been generated as a result of the negotiations between the parties themselves, and see whether they can serve as gap bridges which could lead to this agreement on the framework for permanent status negotiations.
I want to stress, as we always do but it never seems quite to convince doubters, particularly, I think, in the region, that this is not an effort to achieve an interim agreement. It is an effort to provide agreed guidelines for a permanent status agreement, that is to say a full and final peace treaty between the parties. And that purpose here is, in effect, if you like, to – for the Secretary to climb with the two leaders to the top of the hill and be able to share with them the view of what’s on the other side, what peace will look like in terms of all of the core issues that have to be resolved between them. And once they have a shared vision of what that will look like, then it will become easier to finalize the details, and there will be a lot of details in the actual permanent status agreement itself.
These are – as you know because you’ve been around these issues for a long time – difficult, complicated, emotional, symbolic, highly political issues. But we are sustained by the commitment of President Obama and Secretary Kerry that is matched by the continued commitment of both President Abbas an Prime Minister Netanyahu to the effort to achieve a final peace between them, and in the process to secure a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have, in recent days, demonstrated yet again their continued commitment to live up to what they’ve agreed on already in terms of the prisoner releases, the commitment to stay in the negotiation, the commitment to focus on trying to resolve the issues in the negotiation room rather than seeking to take the issue to the United Nations or other international organizations or upgrade Palestinian status in those negotiations.
It’s been a very difficult period, again, the third tranche of prisoner releases, which occurred in the early hours of this morning, and was very painful and difficult on the Israeli side. It was very welcomed on the Palestinian side. But there was a lot of concern about – on the Palestinian side – about activities on the Israeli side, which have continued to create problems for them.
Let me just say that I want to set expectations at a realistic level. We’re not expecting a breakthrough on this trip. There’s a lot of work that lies ahead in terms of getting the parties to a point where they’re agreed on this framework. It’s going to be an intensive engagement. But the Secretary, as I think you know, is determined and committed to working with the leaders to achieve a breakthrough.
So let me leave it there, and happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: Great. Why don’t we go around, and obviously we’ll stay as long as [Senior State Department Official] can stay. Deb, you want to start?
QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell us how hard it would be for – first of all, I wanted to ask you about whether or not we’re going to see another settlement announcement. Do you expect one in the next few days, another settlement announcement from Israel?
And secondly, can you describe how hard it might be for Netanyahu to accept the ’67 lines? Could you explain that to me?
MODERATOR: Could you hear Deb’s question, [Senior State Department Official]?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I wasn’t exactly sure what you were asking me about settlement announcements. Some of your words were garbled there. What’s the question on settlements?
QUESTION: Do you expect another announcement on settlements from Israel in the next few days? There was talk that they would make an announcement on settlements with the latest prisoner release.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, look, we hope not. But as we’ve said repeatedly, the basis upon which the negotiations have resumed after a year’s-long hiatus, was that the Israelis would release Palestinian prisoners, 104 of them in four tranches, and that the Israelis would release the prisoners and the Palestinians would not go to the UN to seek an upgrade in their status or to the International Criminal Court or other international organizations. So that was the basis upon which the negotiations were resumed and the commitment of the parties to continue them for nine months.
Settlement activity or restraint from settlement activity was not part of that agreement to resume negotiations. That said, to state the obvious, the settlement activity that has been going on has created a lot of questions on the Palestinian side and in the international community about the intentions of the Government of Israel. And it’s both the building and the planning that creates a great deal of heartburn.
So our position on settlements is well known. We consider them to be illegitimate. And we have been urging the parties to take steps that would create a positive environment for the negotiations, and we don’t consider settlement activity as creating a positive environment. On the contrary, it tends to be a step that creates a negative environment. It’s not the only thing that creates a negative environment, but it certainly doesn’t help. It creates quite a few bumps in the road, and raises real doubts about the intentions of a government that is paying a high price for its commitment to the negotiations in terms of the prisoner releases. But that is – it kind of gets lost in translation when the settlement announcements take place at the same time. So we hope that they won’t occur now, but as I said, that wasn’t part of the basis upon which we resumed the negotiations.
MODERATOR: Deb, did you have another part or —
QUESTION: Yes. Could you just elaborate a little bit about how Netanyahu could accept the ’67 border lines or not? Can you just explain a little bit about that, about his thought process on that?
MODERATOR: Probably not. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I knew that answer. Don’t talk about the thought process of another leader. (Inaudible) It’s a nice idea. I could talk a lot about the thought process of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, but I won’t. Maybe when – after we have peace it will be worth pursuing.
But what I will say is that something that President Obama said recently at the Saban Forum, and Secretary Kerry said it too at the same forum: that the detail of what a two-state solution looks like is not really much of a mystery, because negotiations have gone on for so long that it’s pretty clear what the requirements are. And if there’s going to be a two-state solution, the Palestinian state is going to have to exist on some territory.
President Obama has said very clearly, a couple of years ago, that it is the U.S., the United States’ position that the two-state solution should be based on a Palestinian state established upon the ’67 lines plus swaps to take account of subsequent development. So that is the U.S. position. I think that if you’re going to be realistic about what the solution is, it’s hard to see how you can end up anywhere else than there if there’s going to be a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Good morning. Good afternoon, [Senior State Department Official]. I wanted to ask you about the timeline for the talks. When they were re-launched back in July 30th, Secretary Kerry said – wait, I’ve lost my quote now. He said, we’ve agreed to achieve – to meet for nine months with the objective of achieving a final status agreement within nine years[i] of that timeline. Yeah. “Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.”
It seems to me now that with the talk of a proposed framework before, and now that timeline seems to be slipping, that there is a suggestion that at the end of April there will be some other kind of agreement and that the two sides will then continue to keep talking for another agreed amount of time. Is that correct?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Look, the timeline remains the timeline that you’ve heard; that is to say, it’s a nine-month timeline, which as you pointed out ends at the end of April, and that’s the timeline that we are working with at the moment. And we are doing our best to achieve a permanent status agreement in that timeframe. President Abbas and the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat have both said that if there’s a reason to extend it, they would be willing to extend it. But that’s not what we’re focused on at the moment. We’re working within the nine-month timeline.
MODERATOR: We can keep going, but I do want to go around to everyone. Lesley.
QUESTION: Are we done with that?
MODERATOR: I think she’s done. But you can ask a follow-up to that.
QUESTION: Well, I do have a follow-up, actually. (Laughter.) Thanks very much. I think what Jo is getting on is the confusion during the last trip we had, in which some senior State Department officials said that there would be the framework, which was where the talks, where basically you were seeking to build confidence with the framework and show the Palestinians and Israelis that there is some progress being made, I mean even if it’s just a framework, and there’s an indication that the prisoner release isn’t anything that– that there’s a lot more to what’s going on. And then there would be the final status agreement, which would then set about – which would then launch a year – six months to a year of talks that would, in the end, lead to a peace treaty. Is that your understanding also?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I think the confusion is in the last part of what you said. In our minds, the permanent status agreement and the peace treaty are one and the same thing. The framework is a basis upon which one could negotiate the final peace treaty, because the outlines or the guidelines for what the final deal would look like would be agreed upon, and then you would work intensively to fill out the details. But there’s no – it’s not a three-stage process. It’s a two-stage process in our minds: agreement on a framework for negotiations; and then a permanent status agreement or a peace treaty, whatever you want to call it, permanent status agreement means —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: — it resolves all of the permanent status issues. That’s, in effect, a peace treaty.
QUESTION: And is your feeling, [Senior State Department Official], that at this stage you can get the framework within the next few months, before April?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I hope we can get it sooner.
QUESTION: As in January, February? (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: We’ll see.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Nice try. (Laughter.) To establish a deadline not only puts pressure on us but puts pressure on the parties, so we’re not going to stake out an exact timetable to get that. But I think you can tell from the nature of Secretary Kerry’s engagement in this process that there’s one thing for certain: He has a need for speed and he has a sense of urgency. It was all we could do to keep him on holidays and not have him come out here at Christmas. So he has a real sense of urgency, a real sense of need to strike while the iron is hot. We consider the iron to be hot. And so we’re going to work assiduously to try to reach this framework agreement as soon as possible.
But having said that, from my 35-year experience on this particular conflict and the efforts to resolve it, it always takes longer than you think. So even though we’d like to have it done yesterday, we’re kind of realistic about the difficulties involved, and we’ll try to get it as quickly as we possibly can.
QUESTION: Hi, [Senior State Department Official]. Anne Gearan with The Washington Post. I’m going to try again: We still have some confusion over what a framework agreement actually is and means. So can I just throw a couple of things out here and you tell me whether I’m right or wrong? So we’ve been given to understand that the first part of this process has been to identify, as you said at the outset, areas of overlap and agreement and areas of disagreement. And now it’s sort of crunch time; now you’re – now April is upon you and you have to actually get down to business and make a deal, if one can be made.
So is a framework agreement the vehicle by which you take whatever you’ve accomplished in the beginning here, and whatever differences you see in front of you, and get them over the line to – get the two sides over the line to actually make a deal? And if so, doesn’t that sort of pre-figure what the deal is? I mean, if you’re making a framework now for what the deal is going to be in a few months’ time, aren’t you basically making the deal?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We are making a deal. Yes, we are making a deal, definitely. It’s a deal – that’s what we hope to make, I should say – that would be a big step forward on the way to achieving a final status agreement or a permanent status agreement or a peace treaty, whatever you want to call it. The – I’m not sure why there’s confusion or mystery about this. If you go back and look at frameworks in the past in the Arab-Israeli context, you’ll be able to find what they looked like. Some are more detailed, some are less detailed, some are declarations of principles, some are guidelines. But essentially, it’s the critical first step on the way to the peace treaty. We (inaudible) —
MODERATOR: Can I add one thing?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: — go back.
MODERATOR: Can I add one thing?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, please.
MODERATOR: And, [Senior State Department Official], obviously you’re the expert here, but just I think I’m understanding what Anne is asking here. A framework, while we don’t know what the final product will look like, right, because we’re discussing and it’s an exchange of ideas, it’s bridging the gap between the two sides, as [Senior State Department Official] just said. But it doesn’t indicate that – it doesn’t necessarily mean – it likely will not be an agreement on all of the – what the final terms of the issues will be, right? So it’s not as if this is exactly what the final product would be on borders, or this is what the final product would be on any of these core issues.
Does that, [Senior State Department Official] – I mean, I think some of the confusion is – well, this is how I was hearing your question —
MODERATOR: — are you agreeing on the terms of these core issues we know are the core issues, and isn’t that an agreement?
QUESTION: Yes. I mean, [Moderator] is helping me out here. I mean, like, we’re still trying to figure out what’s different, frankly, between now and five months ago. I mean, the terms, to use her words there, of a final deal, and as you said a moment ago, have been clear all along, right? Like, everybody knows exactly the basic things that have to be addressed and the basic way that this will work out. So what is a framework that’s different than setting out, as the Secretary did at the very outset of this, the broad parameters and terms of what that deal will be?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, he never laid out what the broad parameters and terms should be, and there certainly wasn’t any agreement on what those broad parameters or terms should be. He never did that, and he never achieved that. So he couldn’t, that was the start of negotiations. So —
QUESTION: Right, but he said borders, he said Jerusalem, he said —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, he said – right.
QUESTION: — returns and —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He said that all the core issues have to be addressed, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And the framework will address all of the core issues.
QUESTION: Okay. So does the framework secure —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But the difference will be that the framework will be agreed between the parties, so that the endgame will be agreed between the parties. There’s never been an agreement on the endgame, right, and what it’s going to look like.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Where are they going to end up, what does the two-state solution look like? So it doesn’t have the details. It just has the guidelines for resolving each of these issues. And within those guidelines will be the two-state solution.
MODERATOR: Which would – that’s why it would be a significant breakthrough, right, in our view. But it doesn’t mean that every single term and every detail is agreed to, right? So that’s why it’s a step between where we’ve been, what’s been achieved in the past, and what a final treaty would be. Does that sound accurate to you, [Senior State Department Official], just to make sure everybody understands that correctly?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You put it better than me.
QUESTION: I think the – one of the problems is we keep using the word “agreement.” Yesterday, Marie in the briefing said we shouldn’t call it an agreement – framework agreement. So it’s like it sounds like it is an interim thing. It sounds like it’s —
MODERATOR: It’s more accurate to say a framework, but – than it is to say a framework agreement. And I know that there’s – we’re playing with words here, but it is an important distinction, because it’s, ideas – it’s an agreement on the terms, as Martin said, right, which has not been achieved in the past, at least in recent history. So that’s why it would be significant. So that’s – it’s more accurate to say framework as opposed to a framework agreement, because they’re not agreeing on every single term and every single detail.
QUESTION: But they —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But they are —
QUESTION: But agreeing on a framework is an agreement.
MODERATOR: But again, that’s why —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But they are agreeing on – sorry, they are agreeing on the framework. It will be an agreed framework for negotiations.
QUESTION: Okay. Yes, right. Okay.
QUESTION: And they agree in what —
QUESTION: So is it also accurate, then, to call it a mid —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sorry, they haven’t reached agreement yet. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Yes, of course. But God willing, the creek don’t rise, you get this thing. Will it essentially secure the agreements and overlaps you’ve identified so far, and kind of – and bind them to go the rest of the way under the terms that you identify in this agreement, this midterm, interim, whatever you want to call it framework?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s not a midterm and it’s not an interim; it’s a framework. A framework —
QUESTION: But you are at the midterm or the interim of talks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, but to use —
QUESTION: And you would be agreeing on something.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To say midterm or to say interim has a very different meaning. An interim agreement is what you had with the Oslo Accords, all right, which was a declaration of principles. But it never provided for what the end state would be. There is no Palestinian state in the Oslo Accords, all right?
QUESTION: Of course.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The core issues with final status was not – were not addressed. It was an interim process that provided for the Palestinians to take control in Gaza, in parts of the West Bank, and provided for final status negotiations but didn’t say anything about what that final status solution should produce. There was no agreement in Oslo on a two-state solution, okay. So it’s – that’s why we say it’s not an interim agreement. We’re not trying to create provisional borders. We’re trying to reach an understanding on what the final borders will be, and will be (inaudible).
QUESTION: Right. No, no, I mean, I completely understand the distinction you’re making, but I’m also trying to just lay out there that we’ve got a terminology problem here too, right? You – how do we describe accurately for readers and viewers that what the Secretary is trying to do at the midway or interim point in these talks, without using words that you guys think are freighted and so forth? It’s difficult. I think we all now understand what you’re saying, but it’s just – there’s a terminology problem here.
QUESTION: Yeah. What do you type?
QUESTION: Yeah, like what —
MODERATOR: Agreement on a framework.
QUESTION: What do you type?
MODERATOR: Agreement on a framework.
QUESTION: And we’re not all going to, like, sign on to some specific set of words here, but I – but —
MODERATOR: No, I think – well, I think everybody – what we’re trying to avoid, as everyone knows, is loaded words, right?
QUESTION: Yeah, right. I get it.
QUESTION: Don’t write about it. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Let’s try – do me a favor. Do me a favor. Let’s try to avoid the use of the word “interim,” okay? You said we’re at a midpoint. Well, we’re actually a little bit past the midpoint, but that’s true in terms of the timeline.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But this is not – there’s nothing about this that is interim. This is not an interim agreement. This is not an interim arrangement that would somehow substitute for the final agreement. It’s a first step that facilitates the achievement of a final status agreement by defining the agreed guidelines for that final status agreement. Is that clear?
QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], sorry —
MODERATOR: Can we just see if – just because Terry and Michael are on the phone, just to see – Terry and Michael, can you hear us?
QUESTION: I can hear you. Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Yeah. Do you have a question, Terry?
QUESTION: Yeah, I do. Let me ask – two parts. One, again, for clarification, would this framework be comparable in detail to the Clinton parameters, which again had – were barely substantive but not specific in all of the implementation details? The Clinton – is this similar to the Clinton parameters? And is – does this document exist yet with – is it, like, a document with brackets? Or are you not at that stage yet?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: First of all, these are not parameters, as we’d call them guidelines. They resemble the Clinton parameters in terms of our ideas in some respects, in that – in the sense that some of the ideas are more detailed than others. So there’s a kind of range between what you call principles and parameters, and we’re kind of somewhere in between because some issues require greater specificity and some issues require more general principles. So it’s a kind of fluid arrangement.
We’re working – as I said before, we’re working on our ideas at the moment, and we’re trying to get agreement on those ideas, after which, if we have the agreement, it’ll be formulated in a written form.
QUESTION: So it does not exist as a document with brackets at this point? You’re not yet at that point?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There’s no document with brackets at this point, no.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Michael, did you have anything you wanted to add from your end?
QUESTION: Is it your intent to make this document public at – if you can secure it? And it will define – I thought I heard you say it will define the end state of the negotiations? Is that what you said, [Senior State Department Official]? I wasn’t quite sure I heard that clearly.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, that is what I said, although I missed some of your words there in a bit of a garble. So maybe you could just ask it again, Michael?
QUESTION: As I understand it, as I heard you, (A), are you going to make this public, and when do you plan to make this public? What, in the next few months if you get it, this month, next month? Is the intent to make this public, and why do you want to make it public?
And two, is the intent to define the end state of the negotiation, the so-called vision you were talking about, what the two-state solution would look like in general terms?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we have to make a decision about whether we go public or not once we have a sense of whether we have an agreement on this framework. It’s certainly an option, and so the benefit of going public would be in starting to shape the debate on both sides and get people used to what it is that would be required of both sides to give up and what both sides would get in the process. So there’s a value in going public.
On the other hand, the downside of going public is that it exposes the leaders to a good deal of political opposition, because these are highly controversial and complicated issues. And so they may feel that it’s too much for the traffic to bear; it’s better to have a private agreement on what the end state would look like, but not go public. So I think we just have to see. I think it’s a little premature to make that decision. But it’ll certainly be part of our own calculations and discussions with the parties.
The issue of the end state, I think I already made that clear. I’m not sure whether you were on the phone when I began sort of at the – discussing this poetic image of Secretary Kerry climbing the mountain with these two leaders and reaching the summit where they would look down on the valley of peace and see what it actually looked like in terms of defining the end state of the two-state solution. So, yes, that is essentially the purpose of an agreed framework.
QUESTION: May I just ask one quick follow-up, please, after your poetic image? Would this document include the reservations on each side, if they have reservations at that juncture? Or would you intend for it to be free of any reservations? In other words, what they can agree on. Or would it include reservations?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I think that it’s likely that the leaders will have reservations in some respects. But what is essential is if they do have reservations, that those reservations be within the framework, not outside the framework, otherwise it would vitiate the agreement. So I can imagine that there would be reservations. If you go back, I think Terry raised the issue of the Clinton parameters. As you may recall, there were – the leaders had reservations. Or if you think about the roadmap, there were reservations that the leaders took when they signed up to the roadmap. But – so I can imagine that we would allow for that, but I want to emphasize again it would have to be reservations within the framework, not outside of it.
MODERATOR: Jo, did you have one?
QUESTION: Yeah. I just had a follow-up on the – also on the endgame. And you mentioned that the Oslo Accords had no provision for a Palestinian state. So would this be the framework – would this be the first time there’s an actual mention by Israel or agreement by Israel to a Palestinian state, as such?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s certainly not the first time that Israeli leaders have signed up to the idea of a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, I think some four years ago, in the Bar-Ilan speech that he gave proclaimed his support for a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. And indeed, these negotiations that we’re in at the moment are based on a common assumption that the endgame will be an independent Palestinian state living side by side with a secure Jewish state of Israel.
So that is the basic assumption on which these negotiations are proceeding. But exactly the kind of proportions of the state, dimensions of it, the arrangements for it, what happens with other final status issues, is – are the kinds of things that we’ve been negotiating and that we are trying to get broad agreement on for the framework.
MODERATOR: We have time, like, for one or two more. Anne?
QUESTION: I just have one quick technical follow to that. So do you envision the framework, when it does become a written document that you might make public or not, do you envision that that is actually something that the two sides sign or not?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. I wouldn’t imagine that it would be a U.S. – at the end state, probably, a U.S. proposal the two sides would agree to, but I don’t imagine that we’re going to have a signing ceremony for this. This is a framework – an agreed framework, not an agreement that – a signed agreement.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It would be a basis for the negotiations, not an agreement that would be signed by the parties.
MODERATOR: Do we have one more?
QUESTION: At what stage, [Senior State Department Official], do you envisage the two leaders coming together and meeting face to face?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You mean the prime minister and the president?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu? I think when we have an agreed basis it probably would make sense, but we just have to play that by ear. We’re certainly not opposed to it, but we want to make sure that when it occurs, it is a – something that creates a positive dynamic for the negotiations. We’re cautious about it because the last time the two leaders met, it ended quite badly and we didn’t have negotiations for four years after that. So we think it’s a good idea at the appropriate time, and we just make a judgment about that as we go. It could certainly provide a big boost. The prime minister has already invited President Abbas to address the Knesset. That, too, could be a good opportunity to demonstrate the comity between the leaders. But these are things that, as I said, we look at and think about in terms of things that can really boost the effort. But we want to be very careful not to set the effort back, so we take it stage by stage.
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you very much for your time, [Senior State Department Official]. Everybody appreciates it a lot.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you. I enjoyed seeing you all.