Candidate Obama Also Called Jerusalem Israel’s Capital, Then Backtracked
While campaigning for the presidency in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama called Jerusalem the capital of Israel when addressing a pro-Israel audience, just as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney did this week.
On June 4 of that year – one day after announcing he had secured the required number of delegates to win the Democratic nomination – Obama delivered a speech at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference.
Any negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he said, “must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”
The pledge brought a standing ovation from the 7,000-plus AIPAC audience, praise from pro-Israel organizations in the U.S. – and an Arab outcry.
“The whole world knows that holy Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and we will not accept a Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state,” P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah.
Hours later, the senator for Illinois told 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.” A spokesman for his campaign sought to explain that what Obama opposed was a return to a city divided by “barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-67.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney places a prayer note into the cracks between the ancient stones during a a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Visiting the city on Sunday, Romney told an audience, “It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”
Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer later whether he considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, the former Massachusetts governor replied: “Yes, of course. A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”
White House and State Department spokesmen on Monday reiterated that administration’s policy that the status of Jerusalem must be settled through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s the view of this administration that the capital should be determined in final status negotiations between parties,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
“I would remind you that that is the position that has been held by previous administrations both Democratic and Republican. So, if Mr. Romney disagrees with that position, he is also disagreeing with positions taken by previous presidents like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan,” he added.