July 24, 2008
Obama on Jerusalem, Properly Phrased
In its lead editorial yesterday ("Obama in Jerusalem"), The New York Sun noted that Barack Obama's continuing explanations of his AIPAC speech, in which he said Jerusalem "must remain undivided," raise more questions than they answer. Obama added yet another explanation yesterday in Sderot.
To decode his current position, it is useful to review in one place the various statements he has made on this issue. So here is a compilation of them, followed by a JCI revision of his AIPAC speech to correct the poor phrasing that marred it:
1. Position Paper on Israel issued during his 2000 congressional campaign:
"Jerusalem should remain united and should be recognized as Israel's capital."
2. January 2008 Response to the American Jewish Committee Election Questionaire -- "How do you see the likely final status of Jerusalem?":
"Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided."
"Let me be clear. . . . Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
ZAKARIA: One area where you're outside the international consensus -- and certainly, perhaps, some others -- is the statement you made in a recent speech supporting Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.Now, why not support the Clinton plan, which envisions a divided Jerusalem, the Arab half being the capital of a Palestinian state, the Jewish half being the capital of the Jewish state?OBAMA: You know, the truth is that this was an example where we had some poor phrasing in the speech. . . . The point we were simply making was, is that we don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the '67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent.I was not trying to predetermine what are essentially final status issues. I think the Clinton formulation provides a starting point for discussions between the parties.
COURIC: . . . You said not too long ago that Jerusalem should remain undivided. And then you backtracked on that statement. Does that play into the argument that some believe that someone more experienced would not have made that kind of mistake?OBAMA: Well...if you look at what happened, there was no shift in policy or backtracking in policy. We just had phrased it poorly in the speech. That has happened and will happen to every politician. You're not always gonna hit your mark in terms of how you phrase your policies. But my policy hasn't changed, and it's been very consistent. It's the same policy that Bill Clinton has put forward, and that says that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, that we shouldn't divide it by barbed wire, but that, ultimately that is ... a final status issue that has to be resolved between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
QUESTION: Senator Obama, you said at [the] AIPAC convention that undivided Jerusalem continues to be the capital city of Israel - and then you change it, and clarified later on, and people in Israel wonder how we can be sure of your other statements, that you are going to be committed to the security of the state of Israel, and you are not going to change it when you're the President of the United States.OBAMA: First of all, I didn't change my statement. I continue to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. And I have said that before and I will say it again. And I also have said that it is important that we don't simply slice the city in half, but I've also said that that's a final status issue. That's an issue that has to be dealt with with the parties involved, the Palestinians and the Israelis, and it is not the job of the United States to dictate the form in which that will take, but rather to support the efforts that are being made right now to resolve these very difficult issues that have a long history.
Based on all these statements, here is what Obama apparently meant to say at AIPAC last month, with the poor phrasing of his first three statements corrected with the better phrasing from his three most recent statements:
So let me be clear. . . . Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel and must remain undivided. What I mean by this is simply that there should be no barbed wire between the divisions, and my very consistent policy has been that Bill Clinton's plan, proposing a partition of Jerusalem, provides a starting point for negotiations on this final status issue. Of course I do not want to predetermine the issue, and we shouldn't simply slice the city in half. It's not our job to say what form the capital of Israel should take, but just to support the efforts to resolve this very difficult issue, which has a long history.
He's likeable enough. But he's not ready to be president.
Rick Richman edits "Jewish Current Issues." His articles on the "peace process" have appeared in American Thinker, The New York Sun and The Jewish Press.