On Wednesday we heard that Jerusalem (along with, no less significantly, the Palestinian “right of return” and Hamas) had been omitted from the Democratic Party’s platform for 2012. On Thursday we heard that Jerusalem had been reinstated—by means of the ludicrous voice vote shown in this already viral video, in which it is not at all clear that the ayes really have a two-thirds majority or even a majority at all.
Whether or not the original omission was President Obama’s doing, it was certainly consistent with the content of another much-viewed video from slightly over a month ago, in which White House spokesman Jay Carney, by refusing to say what city the White House considers the capital of Israel, made perfectly clear that the city is not Jerusalem. It is also consistent with Obama’s failure to visit Israel since being president—which would entail coming to Jerusalem in pomp and splendor and at least tacitly acknowledging it as the capital, a message the president does not want to convey to the surrounding countries.
Back in June 2008, candidate Obama, in a speech to AIPAC, surprised everyone by declaring that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” That drew a sharp rebuff from Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas among others. And one day after his AIPAC statement Obama backtracked, telling CNN: “Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations.”
If that at least sounded like neutrality, it quickly got worse when candidate Obama became President Obama. In his Cairo speech in June 2009, in which he spent several paragraphs vilifying Israeli communities over the 1967 line to a largely Islamic-extremist audience, Obama said:
All of us have a responsibility to work for the day…when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
If that too may have sounded like a kind of neutrality, it actually pointedly excluded any reference to the political status of Jerusalem or even part of Jerusalem—in the present or the future—as Israel’s capital. It came, in other words, from the same territory as the Carney press conference and the platform omission; except that it was delivered to an audience all too accepting of the message that—whatever Israel may say—Jerusalem currently has no established political status at all.
It was, of course, nine months later, in March 2010, that all hell broke loose when, during a visit to Jerusalem by Vice-President Joseph Biden, a zoning board announced plans to build apartments for Jews in Ramat Shlomo, an already-existing neighborhood of 20,000 in the part of Jerusalem that was under illegal Jordanian rule from 1949 to 1967. “I condemn,” stormed Biden, “the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem.”
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