The Statement Department said Monday that it is not considering any new sanctions against Israel to protest that country's expansion of settlements in east Jerusalem, even though both State and the White House refused to say last week if sanctions were being considered.
"I can set the record straight and be clear that reports that we might be contemplating sanctions against Israel are completely unfounded and without merit," State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the U.S. has no plans to sanction Israel over new construction in east Jerusalem. Last week, both State and the White House refused to answer whether sanctions were being considered. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM
But Psaki wasn't able to explain why her colleague at State and White House press secretary Josh Earnest refused to answer that question last week. Earnest said he wouldn't tell reporters anything about "internal deliberations" within the White House, and State spokeswoman Marie Harf said she wouldn't respond to anonymous claims about "alleged internal deliberations."
When pressed on why officials had so much trouble with the question last week, Psaki said officials don't usually discuss internal debates, and said it was decided that they needed to "set the record straight."
Psaki was also asked if perhaps the Obama administration had been considering sanctions, and now is not. Psaki said she thinks her statement "has been consistently true" over time.
However, she indicated that the government may in fact have been mulling sanctions against Israel at some point. For example, she was asked explicitly if sanctions were ever under consideration, and refused to say more: "I just am not going to have any more for you on it."
Moments later, she said sanctions against Israel are nothing something that will be "moving forward," a possible indication that the option did exist. She then quickly corrected herself to say they were never being contemplated.
"We put sanctions in place around the world for a variety of reasons," she said. "This isn't a situation where obviously moving forward with that, or were contemplating that, as my comments made clear."
Late last week, dozens of Republicans demanded that President Barack Obama answer clearly whether he is considering sanctions against Israel, a move that the GOP would have hotly opposed.