Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Complicated, But Not That Complicated/Rigatoni is Not a Dual Use Weapon

What is the U.S. doing to enable that the siege of Gaza ends? It's complicated, but not that complicated. Why not write to the Secretary of State to tell her how you feel about it?

Robert Wood

Acting Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing

February 25, 2009
QUESTION: A new topic? On Gaza, there have been some reports that the United States is quite displeased with the Israeli government about the amount of goods that the Israeli government is allowing into Gaza. For instance, they’re making such restrictions on dual use that is kind of arbitrary and not necessarily in line with what the humanitarian needs are in Gaza. Can you say what, at this point, the State Department assessment of the amount of aid that’s going into Gaza right now?

MR. WOOD: I’m not prepared here to give you an assessment of the type of aid that’s going in, but we have --

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the level of aid?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, the situation on the ground there, as you know, is very complicated. And what we have been trying to do is ensure that, you know, humanitarian assistance gets to the people of Gaza. We will continue to try to do that, but as I said, it’s complicated. And we have had discussions with the Israelis about the situation. Other countries have, as well. And we’ll continue to push to get as much in the way of humanitarian supplies into Gaza as we can. It’s the best assessment I can give you.

QUESTION: Well, just one example that is (inaudible) on the press that the Israelis are not letting pasta into Gaza, only rice, because that’s a humanitarian – because that’s only on their humanitarian things. Do think that all food and medicine should be allowed into Gaza right now?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, there are a number of players on the ground trying to deal with the humanitarian situation. I, from the podium here, can’t tell you whether, you know, pasta should fall into a specific category – into that category of humanitarian assistance or not. But what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the supplies that –

QUESTION: Well, apparently, U.S. officials have been complaining about this particular example. So, I mean, I’m just saying, like, shouldn’t all food and medicine be allowed into Gaza at this point? I mean, is that really a -- even a question about dual use?

MR. WOOD: What we want to see get into Gaza are humanitarian supplies that, you know -- that the Gazan -- the people of Gaza need. I can’t give you an assessment of, you know, whether all of these things are absolutely necessary to meet the humanitarian needs of the Gazan people. That’s better left to those international organizations and NGOs, you know, who are in the area trying to work on this issue. I just can’t make that kind of determination.

QUESTION: Do you think that Israel should be tying the amount of aid and supplies getting into Gaza to the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit? Because as you know, the -- some people in Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s staff have complained that this – that aid is being used as a political tool.

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s not for me, from the podium here, to engage in these types of -- on these issues. I mean, this is --

QUESTION: Well, should aid -- you don’t -- you can’t say whether you think aid should be used as a political weapon?

MR. WOOD: Well, aid should never be used a political weapon. But again, I’m not engaged in those discussions that are going on with regard to, you know, the opening of the borders and with regard to the ceasefire. Those are decisions that will have to be made at an appropriate time. I’m not able to do that from here.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, do you think that the ceasefire is being honored? I mean, obviously, there have been complaints that Hamas is not honoring the ceasefire. But is Israel honoring the ceasefire in terms of allowing the aid and – under their obligations? Are they meeting their obligations?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not able to give you that kind of assessment from here. But my understanding is, is that there are discussions going on amongst a wide variety of parties with equities with regard to this conflict, and they are trying to bring about, you know, a durable ceasefire. They’re trying to make sure that the, you know, humanitarian supplies reach those who need them in Gaza. I just can’t give you that kind of assessment at this point. It’s a very complex situation on the ground, and that’s something we have to be aware of.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: No, go ahead.

MR. WOOD: No, I was just going to say – and you have to understand that because it’s complex and there are a number of parties working on it, that you’re not going to get – necessarily get immediate results. But we’re going to continue to push, as I said, to get humanitarian supplies in to the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: But can you imagine any circumstance under which pasta could be considered a dual-use item? Or is there some -- you know, is rigatoni somehow going to be used as a weapon? (Laughter.)

MR. WOOD: I’m not involved in those discussions, so I –

QUESTION: Well, I mean -- I mean, it just seems to be absurd on the face of it, if that’s what happening.

MR. WOOD: Well, there are people on the ground who are dealing with these issues. And I think we should leave it --

QUESTION: Dealing with the pasta dual-use issue?

QUESTION: Yeah, can you take a question on the pasta, please?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to take the question on the pasta --


MR. WOOD: -- because it’s –

QUESTION: Well, the United States is obviously pushing it, so obviously it’s something --

MR. WOOD: We’re trying to get humanitarian supplies in – on the ground to the people in Gaza.

QUESTION: Do you think food is a humanitarian supply?

MR. WOOD: Food certainly is.

QUESTION: All kinds of food?

MR. WOOD: I – I’m not able to tell you from here whether it –

QUESTION: Can you get a – can you take the question of what kind of food that the U.S. thinks is a humanitarian supply?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to take that question, because I don’t think it’s a legitimate question.

QUESTION: You don’t think it’s legitimate that the Palestinians need certain foods and is – should Israel decide what food the Palestinians need?

MR. WOOD: I’m sorry, Elise, I’m not going to – I’ve spoken on it.

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