by P. David Hornik
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.”Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her part, called the zoning board’s announcement “an insult to the United States” and telephoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to excoriate him over the transgression for 45 minutes.
Two weeks later Obama himself got directly into the act. When Netanyahu came to the White House in an effort to calm the winds, he found himself snubbed by Obama in what may have been the most insolent treatment ever meted out by a U.S. president to a visiting head of government.
The next November in Jakarta, asked at a press conference about approvals that had been issued to build 1300 homes—for Jews, of course—in two Jerusalem neighborhoods, Obama replied: “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.” As I noted at the time, Indonesia is a country that forbids Israeli citizens to visit, is one of 19 UN member states that do not recognize Israel as a state, and does not allow overflights by Israeli planes.
Then, in May 2011, Obama said in a speech to the State Department:
The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt…. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps….
That, in a radical break with previous U.S. policy that left the issue of borders open, meant Israel had no right to any of the territory it had captured in 1967—not the strategically indispensable Jordan Valley and not the liberated parts of Jerusalem including the Old City, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount—and would have to “swap” parts of pre-1967 Israel for what little it managed to keep.
The consternation was so great that a few days later Obama—in a speech to AIPAC—seemed to backtrack in the other direction, saying that “the parties themselves—Israelis and Palestinians—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.” By now, though, the president’s attitudes toward Jerusalem and Israel were clear enough.
The most recent events are, then, just the continuation of a pattern. The fact that there was so much difficulty voice-voting Jerusalem back into the Democratic platform—if it was actually done at all—reflects the fact that the problem goes beyond Obama himself and includes a sizable portion of the Democratic Party.
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