The Cable

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State Department to Israel: Don’t scuttle your agreements with the PA

Yesterday, The Cable brought you an exclusive interview with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who said that Israel’s agreements with the Palestinian Authority (PA) could be at risk if it goes forward with a vote for unilateral statehood at the United Nations next month. Today, the State Department responded and urged the ...

Yesterday, The Cable brought you an exclusive interview with Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who said that Israel's agreements with the Palestinian Authority (PA) could be at risk if it goes forward with a vote for unilateral statehood at the United Nations next month.

Today, the State Department responded and urged the Israeli government to honor its agreements with the PA, at least for the time being.

"Yesterday the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, said in an interview that all bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could become null and void if they establish something called the government of Palestine," The Cable asked State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland at today's briefing. "And he suggested that U.S. agreements, bilateral agreements with the Palestinian Authority, could also become null and void, because they are not made with something called the government of Palestine. Was he accurate?"

Yesterday, The Cable brought you an exclusive interview with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who said that Israel’s agreements with the Palestinian Authority (PA) could be at risk if it goes forward with a vote for unilateral statehood at the United Nations next month.

Today, the State Department responded and urged the Israeli government to honor its agreements with the PA, at least for the time being.

"Yesterday the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, said in an interview that all bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could become null and void if they establish something called the government of Palestine," The Cable asked State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland at today’s briefing. "And he suggested that U.S. agreements, bilateral agreements with the Palestinian Authority, could also become null and void, because they are not made with something called the government of Palestine. Was he accurate?"

"I think the interview was with you, if I’m not wrong there, Mr. Rogin," Nuland quipped, calling out your humble Cable guy for seeking to advance his own story.

Actually, Oren never used the words "null and void," but did say that, "We have a lot of agreements with the Palestinian Authority, we have no agreements with a ‘Government of Palestine," and that Israeli-PA and U.S.-PA agreements could be at risk if the Palestinian leadership moves forward with a U.N. statehood vote.

Nuland’s response was, "We take seriously the prior commitments by all sides and we expect the parties to do the same. We will continue to urge both the Palestinians and the Israelis to honor their commitments fully."

Other press corps members tried to press Nuland on how the United States would manage its dealings with the PA if it is recognized as the government of a Palestinian state, but she wouldn’t bite.

"We believe that prior commitments need to be respected by both sides and we’re making that point," she said. "I’m not going to get into all kinds of hypotheticals and all kinds of crazy scenarios."

Some reporters at the briefing argued that since the PA seems determined to move forward at the United Nations, it’s not such a "crazy scenario," but Nuland, eager not to get out ahead of the U.S. diplomacy on the issue, wouldn’t budge.

"I’m not prepared to speak about contingency planning one way or the other," she said. "I am simply giving the view of the U.S. administration, which is that we take seriously the prior commitments made by all sides, and we expect them to continue to be met by and honored by all sides."

In the gaggle that follows the briefing each day, a State Department official was asked if the administration was doing everything it could to convince other countries not to support the PA’s effort.

"Absolutely," the State Department official said, adding that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised the issue in several meetings with world leaders, including Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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