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US State Department spokesman scolds reporters during ‘nakba’ discussion

“This is not a place for you guys to offer comments,” said Vedant Patel.

Vedant Patel. Source: YouTube screenshot.
Vedant Patel. Source: YouTube screenshot.

During the U.S. State Department press briefing on Tuesday, Vedant Patel, Foggy Bottom’s principal deputy spokesman, fielded what has become de rigueur criticism of Israel disguised as leading questions. More unusual, he admonished a reporter for trying to slip a comment in.

“Yeah, I have a comment,” a mustachioed reporter began.

“You have a comment or a question? This is not really a place for you guys to offer comments,” said Patel.

“We talked—or you talked a lot about the two-state solution and negotiations that lead to, go back to the negotiation. Why are you always keeping the issue of an occupation sort of on the shadow or away? Why is—why it is not on the table? Is it not urgent?” the questioner said, according to a department transcript.

“Of course, it’s urgent,” responded Patel. “And I would not say that it’s on the side as well. It is on the table. And in our conversations about pushing for a negotiated two-state solution, it is something that we raise directly with our Israeli partners, with the Palestinian Authority. It’s something we raise quite directly.”

Earlier in the briefing, Said Arikat, who writes for a Palestinian paper and often attacks Israel, said that Ryiad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, called at the United Nations for an end to the nakba. (The Arabic term for “catastrophe” is used to refer to Israel’s modern-day creation in 1948.)

“Do you agree with him that the Palestinian nakba, the time has come to end it?” Arikat asked Patel

“Said, we have been clear and consistent from this podium, from across this administration, about the need for a negotiated two-state solution, a state for the people of Israel, a state for the Palestinian people,” Patel said. “So that continues to be our administration’s approach to this.”

When Arikat persisted, asking “When should serious negotiations begin, in your view?” Patel said that Foggy Bottom’s position is that there should be a resolution as soon as possible; “that is why we have spoken to this quite consistently before.”

Arikat also mentioned “a bipartisan resolution in Congress” today that “basically omits the Palestinians completely. I mean, it talks about Israel. It talks about the celebration of independence, and so on. But even the lip service that was paid in the past for the two-state solution was not even mentioned altogether.” 

He asked the State Department spokesman if that disturbed him.

Patel said he hadn’t seen the resolution and would not comment on “pending products coming out of our Congress.”

“But what I will say is two things,” he said. “One, we would congratulate Israel on its upcoming 75th anniversary. But also, you have seen us—this administration—be quite clear about our views on a two-state solution as well as our views about ensuring the dignity and the equal measures of prosperity, of equal measures of justice, when it comes to both the Israelis and Palestinians as well.”

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