WATCH: Ed Henry Pushes Earnest on White House's Willingness to Sanction Israel, Not Iran

Fox New's Ed Henry grills White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest over reports that the White House is considering sanctions against Israel.

White House press pool during a press briefing December 5, 2014.
White House press pool during a press briefing December 5, 2014.Credit: Screengrab


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: There were reports that the administration is considering sanctioning Israel over the settlements issue. I wonder if you could say true or false.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, uh, I've been informed of some of these reports. What I can tell you is that I'm not going to talk about any sort of internal deliberations inside the administration and certainly not inside the White House. But I will say something that I have said many times before, which is that Israel is a close and strategic partner of the United States. And I don't need to remind you of the strong and unshakable bonds that exist between the United States and Israel and the United States' exceedingly strong commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.

That being said, we have also been crystal clear about our view of settlement activity. That view has not changed. We believe that settlements are illegitimate, and we have deep concerns about highly contentious planning and construction activities that the Israeli government is pursuing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We believe that those kind of activities are counterproductive. We've made those views clear in public; we've made those views clear in private.

HENRY: So very clearly you are not denying that sanctions are on the table against even an ally?

EARNEST: I am very clearly not denying we have strong concerns about that settlement activity that's underway in Israel. But it has not and will not affect the United States' strong commitment to the national security of the nation of Israel.

HENRY: But how can you be telling Congress don't issue more sanctions against Iran at the same time you're considering sanctions against an ally in Israel?

EARNEST: Again, I'm not going to comment on those reports about our discussions as it relates to Israel.

HENRY: But you are talking about sanctions. You're leaving that door wide open here.

EARNEST: I'm not saying I'm not willing to talk about those conversations.

HENRY: So you're not considering sanctions?

EARNEST: I'm not saying I'm not willing to talk about those kinds of conversations. But what I am saying is that we have been clear about what our strategy is against Iran. There is a historically tough sanctions regime in place against Iran. Those sanctions that were put in place by Congress and implemented by this administration have been effective, both in terms of exacting a heavy toll on the Iranian economy. We've seen their economic output, been significantly negatively affected by this. We've seen significant decline in the value of their currency. There are a lot of ways to measure the impact of this sanctions regime.

We do believe that while productive talks continue, that it would be unwise to put in place additional sanctions on Iran only because of the success of that sanctions regime depends upon the ability and willingness of our partners around the globe to enforce the sanctions regime.

As we know, there's not a whole lot of business conducted between the United States and Iran directly. We're relying on other countries that actually do more business with Iran to abide by the sanctions regime. So far we have gotten that international buy-in that has really cracked down on the Iranian economy. It has prompted the Iranian leadership to come to the negotiating table with the United States and our P5+1 partners to try to resolve the international community's concerns about their nuclear program. So, we have been clear about what our strategy is as it relates to Iran. I'm less willing to talk about any internal conversations about Israel.

Starts at (39:00):



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