Transcript: (Scroll to the bottom for full video on mobile)
- Dempsey: Israel went to 'extraordinary length' to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza
- The holy war being waged within the Israeli army
- Time for American Jews to confront Israel’s demons
- Between ISIS and Hamas, Israel realizes 'stable instability' in the region won't last
Matt Lee from the Associated Press: (Starts at 3:25) Yesterday, the ICC made its decision that there was no case to prosecute for war crimes in Gaza. But also yesterday – and you spoke about that very briefly here. But also yesterday, General Dempsey, who is no slouch when it comes to military things, told an audience in New York that the Israelis went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage during the Gaza war.
And I’m puzzled, because I thought it was the position of the Administration – or maybe it was just the position of the State Department and the White House – that Israel was not doing enough to live up to its – what you called its own high standards. Back on August 3rd, there was the statement you put out after the UNRWA school incident, saying that the U.S. “is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling.” And that was some pretty fierce criticism.
How do you reconcile these two apparent divergent points of view? When this statement came out, the United States was appalled? Did that just mean the State Department was appalled?
Jen Psaki, State Department: No, that is the position of the Administration; it remains the position of the Administration. As we made clear throughout the summer’s conflict, we supported Israel’s right to self-defense and strongly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, and the use of tunnels, of course, of attacks into Israel. However, we also expressed deep concern and heartbreak for the civilian death toll in Gaza and made clear, as you noted in the statement you pointed to, that we believed that Israel could have done more to prevent civilian casualties, and it was important that they held their selves to a high standard. So that remains our view and position about this summer’s events.
Lee: Okay. But I’m still confused as to how you can reconcile the fact that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who knows a bit about how military operations work, I would venture to guess; I don’t know him, but I assume that he wouldn’t be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff if he was – if he didn’t --
Lee: -- says that the Israelis essentially did the best that they could and lived up to – by extension lived up to their high standards by taking – by going to, quote, “extraordinary lengths” to limit the collateral damage.
Psaki: Well, I would point you to the chairman’s team for his – more specifics on his comments. But it remains the broad view of the entire Administration that they could have done more and they should have taken more – all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties.