The Obama administration has given America’s closest ally in the Middle East a fair number of cheap shots in recent days as Israel confronts a rapidly escalating terror situation.
One of the things the administration can’t get straight is its accusations that Israel violated the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Earlier today, State Department Spokesperson John Kirby falsely claimed that that the status quo had been violated, and tonight he substantially misrepresented his statement in an effort to walk back his comments.
Sadly, Kirby is not the first to do so. Just the other day, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called for a restoration of the status quo:
The Obama administration condemned escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians and called for a full return to the status quo at the Temple Mount.
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms violence against Israeli and Palestinian civilians,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
“We call upon all parties to take affirmative steps to restore calm and refrain from actions and rhetoric that would further inflame tensions in that region of the world,” he said. “We continue to urge all sides to find a way back to the full restoration of the status quo at the Temple Mount in Haram al-Sharif, the location that has precipitated so much of the violence that we’ve seen there.”
But as many noted in response, there had been no change to the Temple Mount status quo:
In response to the criticism, John Kerry tried to walk back the administration’s misrepresentations:
PM's office said @JohnKerry told Netanyahu the US is aware that Israel did not act to change the status quo on temple mount
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) October 10, 2015
Undoubtedly, the contrary messages given by the administration on the Temple Mount status quo in recent days have caused the Israeli government considerable headaches and contributed to inflaming the situation:
Netanyahu once again says that it is a huge lie that Israel wants to change status quo on Temple Mount. #AlAqsa
— Lahav Harkov (@LahavHarkov) October 14, 2015
Then earlier today during the daily State Department press conference, in wades Kirby to reverse the position that his boss Kerry had reportedly represented to Prime Minister Netanyahu just a few days ago, saying again that the status quo had been violated.
But earlier this evening, Kirby tried to walk back his statement, saying he didn’t intend to suggest that:
Clarification from today's briefing: I did not intend to suggest that status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif has been broken.
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) October 15, 2015
But what he says is flatly untrue. As I noted in a tweet back to Kirby, during his press conference he explicitly said that the status quo had not been observed, leading to more violence, and parroting Earnest’s comments last week that the status quo needed to be restored.
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) October 15, 2015
One only needs to visit the State Department’s own transcript to see that Kirby explicitly said what he now claims he never intended to suggest:
QUESTION: All right. And then the visit to Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif by Israelis, is that – does the Administration consider that to be visits to there – does the Administration consider that to be incitement?
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to be able to characterize every single act with terminology. What the Secretary has said and stands by is that we want to see the status quo restored, the status quo arrangement there on Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount, and for both sides to take actions to de-escalate the tensions. So incitement can take many forms. Again, I’m not going to – I’m not going to go through a laundry list of what is or what isn’t. I mean, the Secretary spoke specifically about incitement yesterday, and we recognize that incitement can go both ways here. But it’s the – whether it’s action or rhetoric, it’s things that encourage others to continue this cycle of violence, it’s just not helpful and not going to get us to what we really want to see there.
QUESTION: Is it the Administration’s position that the status quo at the Temple Mount has been broken?
MR KIRBY: Well, certainly, the status quo has not been observed, which has led to a lot of the violence. [emphasis added]
Kirby could say that he was in error when he made these representations, but to say that he didn’t intend to suggest it flies in the face of the transcript. The video of the press conference shows the transcript is accurate and that it was in fact what he suggested (beginning at 07:30):
This administration, which has an extreme fetish for telling people that using phrases like “radical Islam” aids terror groups like ISIS, seems to have no reservations whatsoever about making statements aiding the incitement of Palestinian terrorism.