State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki got defensive on Monday after being confronted with the comments attributed to Martin Indyk, the American negotiator in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), in which he went on a rant blaming the Jewish state for the failure of peace talks.
The conversation was originally reported by The Washington Free Beacon, which received it from a person who overheard the conversation between Indyk, his wife Gahl Burt, and several members of his staff.
The conversation allegedly took place right after he spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), where he openly blamed Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria for the failure of the talks, despite the fact that a freeze of such building was not a precondition of talks.
The Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that, when asked about Indyk’s comments by reporters at her daily press briefing, Psaki categorically denied the report.
“I will tell you that that report is categorically false and there’s been no secret about what his position is on the unhelpful steps taken by both sides,” she said. “He’s spoken publicly about them, and I would point people to that.”
Psaki was pressed further by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee on the details, but she said she would “go into too much detail” and could only repeat “he did not have the conversation” outlined by the report. She did acknowledge that Indyk had been at the bar where the conversation allegedly took place.
“Do you know what about that report is categorically false?” Lee asked. ”Could he — he wasn’t in the bar or he didn’t have a — what about it? He didn’t say the things — he was there but he didn’t say what was attributed to him, or?”
“I’m not going to go into too much detail other than to say that he had a busy schedule that day,” Psaki replied.
“He arrived for just a few minutes and did not have the conversation that was outlined in the news report.”
She then moved on to other questions.
This is not the first time that Psaki has gotten flustered when asked by reporters to explain comments made by U.S. officials against Israel.
Last month, she had trouble trying to explain comments by Secretary of State John Kerry, who had said that Israel will become an "apartheid state" if a peace agreement is not reached.
All Psaki could come up with to justify the statement was that it was part of Kerry’s support for the “two-state solution” and that “many officials have used similar phrases”.