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November 20, 2012 3:00 pm

AP Reporter, State Department Spokeswoman Get Into Heated Exchange Over Government’s Silence on Israel (VIDEO)

avatar by Zach Pontz

AP reporter Matthew Lee at the press conference. Photo: Screenshot.

A heated exchange between a journalist for the Associated Press and a spokeswoman for the State Department took place Monday over the current conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Matthew Lee pressed Victoria Nuland on why the State Department had remained mostly silent in public on the issue.

MATTHEW LEE, AP: You say that it would not be helpful for you to discuss any of your conversations, that quiet diplomacy is the way to deescalate that problem. You’ve been doing your quiet diplomacy for almost a week. How’s that going so far?

VICTORIA NULAND: Uh, we are working hard with the parties–

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LEE: Hasn’t it occurred to anybody that being less quiet would get more results. The squeaky wheel gets grease–that kind of thing?

NULAND: I’ll let the–

LEE: You’re being silent while people are dying, left and right.

NULAND: Matt, we are being far from silent. The President–

LEE: You’re not telling us anything about… When the Turks come out, when the leaders of Turkey come out and say that Israel is engaged in acts of terrorism, and you refuse to say you don’t agree with that — or, maybe, you do agree with it — that’s being silent.

The exchange continued to gather steam when Lee reiterated his statement about Turkey’s Prime Minster, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who on Monday called Israel a “terrorist state.”

LEE: [Y]ou won’t stick up for your ally Israel when the Turks, another one of your allies, say that they’re engaged in terrorism in Gaza.

NULAND: We have been extremely clear about our concern for Israel’s security, about the fact that Israel has a right to self-defense, but I am not going to go further than that today.

LEE: Why can’t you say that you don’t agree with the Turks.

NULAND: Because I’m not going to get into a public spitting match with allies on either side. We’re just not going to do that.

Lee continued his aggressive questioning before Nuland wrapped with “We of course agree that rhetorical attacks against Israel are not helpful at this moment.”

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