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Apartheid ‘not a term we have used to describe Israel’s actions,’ says State Department spokesman

A reporter also pressed the State Department spokesman on whether it is concerning that the Israeli prime minister secured an invite to China prior to one from the White House.

Palestinian journalist Said Arikat at a U.S. State Department press briefing on June 28, 2023. Source: YouTube screenshot.
Palestinian journalist Said Arikat at a U.S. State Department press briefing on June 28, 2023. Source: YouTube screenshot.

Said Arikat, Washington bureau chief of Al-Quds, began his question during the U.S. State Department’s press briefing on June 28 stating, “First, Eid Mubarak to all those celebrating.”

“Eid Mubarak to all celebrating,” echoed Vedant Patel, the department’s principal deputy spokesperson.

Then Arikat, who often makes anti-Israel statements that end with question marks, wanted to know if the State Department was aware of reports that former United Nations officials Ban Ki-Moon and Mary Robinson had said, after visiting Israel, that “Israel is drifting into apartheid, that the government is driving Jewish supremacy.”

Patel told the Palestinian reporter that the U.S. government will let U.N. representatives “speak to and clarify their own comments.”

“But I will reiterate that that is not a term that we have used to describe Israel’s actions,” he added. “Broadly, we continue to work towards a negotiated two-state solution along the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Arikat shifted gears. No Israelis have been prosecuted for attacks on Palestinians, despite U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that continuing violence hurts efforts to normalize Saudi Arabia-Israel relations, he said. “I mean, it’s the same old question. So what can the U.S. do to make sure that those perpetrators are brought to justice?”

Patel responded that Blinken and the State Department “have been unambiguous on this issue.” Washington is “deeply concerned by the rising trend of extremist settler violence,” he added.  “We unequivocally condemn all acts of extremist violence, whether it be by Israelis or Palestinians.”

Another reporter asked about China “potentially playing a role in securing peace in the Middle East” with the news that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to China and following a visit from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Patel responded that countries are allowed to have relationships with China, “just as we do.”

“We expect the Netanyahu government and the prime minister to raise issues of their interest and of mutual concern on a potential visit to Beijing. I of course will let them speak to any of their own forthcoming travel,” he added.

“And there’s still no invite for the prime minister to come here?” the reporter asked.

Patel deferred to the White House. “Would just refer you to them to speak to any forthcoming visits,” he said.

The reporter persisted. “It wouldn’t be concerning to you if like your— your major ally in the region, prime minister of your major ally in the region, went to China before coming here?”

“I think it’s important to not get caught up in things like sequencing and choreographics like that, and it’s more important to stay focus on the substance of the issues,” Patel said. “The substance of the issues are that we are in direct contact and engagement directly with our Israeli partners, and we have a number of issues at the nexus of our relationship that we look forward to continuing to engage on bilaterally.” 

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