Reporter to Psaki: How Can Kerry 'Respect' Netanyahu's Concerns But Dismiss Them As 'Unwarranted'?

November 19, 2013

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki about the near term implications of proceeding with an Iranian nuclear deal without the support of Israel Tuesday in the State Department press conference.

Lee questioned how Secretary of State John Kerry could "respect" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's concerns that the deal could threaten Israel's existence and simultaneously dismiss those same concerns as "unwarranted."

Psaki vaguely replied the State Department believes "you can both respect concerns and hear them and also disagree with them":

MATT LEE: Right. And then the other thing you said in response to an earlier question was that you refute the notion that our decades-long relationship will be impacted -- this is with Israel -- impacted in the long term. What about in the short term?

JEN PSAKI: Well, I'm happy --

LEE: You refute the notion that there is a difference of opinion andthat there is a tension in the relationship right now?

PSAKI: I certainly don't refute the notion there is a difference of opinion. It's no secret that we have some disagreements about the path forward in Iran and what the best path is. The point I was making-- and I'm happy to add in the short, medium and long term -- is that we have a decades-long relationship with Israel about a range of issues, and we are confident that that will continue moving forward.

LEE: So you don't think that pursuing a goal or pursuing tactics, to use your words, that the Israelis believe fundamentally threaten their existence is a problem for the relationship?

PSAKI: Well, Matt, we just disagree with that notion --

LEE: Right. So --

PSAKI: -- given one of the reasons we're pursuing this is because of Israel's security and security around the world. And that's a message we'll continue to convey and a discussion we'll continue to have.

LEE: Can you explain how exactly it is that you can say -- or the secretary says that he respect's Prime Minister Netanyahu's concern, and yet -- concerns, and yet completely dismisses them as unwarranted. How is that respect?

PSAKI: I think he hardly dismisses. I think you can respect while also disagree, and that's part of many diplomatic conversations we have around the world.

LEE: OK. I respect your concerns but you're wrong and we're right. Is that pretty much the bottom line?

PSAKI: I think you can both respect concerns and hear them and also disagree with them.