On Jerusalem, political parties prone to pander
September 6th, 2012
05:22 PM ET

On Jerusalem, political parties prone to pander

By Elise Labott CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter

Much is being made of the Democrats' decision to remove a reference to Jerusalem being Israel's capital from the party's political platform, and President Barack Obama's decision to put it back in.

The partisan politics over this issue, however, is missing the point.

Everyone knows when it comes to the issue of Israel, presidential candidates will say almost anything to get elected. But few of their promises are ever delivered on.

Case in point: In 2008, then-candidate Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest and most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

Yet today, his administration pursues a policy inconsistent with that approach. As recently as March, the State Department reaffirmed that the final status of Jerusalem is to be negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves as part of a comprehensive peace deal. In July the White House issued a statement to the same effect.

And it's not just the Obama administration instituting the policy. This is a policy that's basically been in effect since 1967.

The same goes with the pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Nearly every candidate, including then-Sen. Obama and now Mitt Romney, travels to Israel and makes a half-hearted promise to move the embassy to what they call Israel's rightful capital. And every commander-in-chief leaves office without having fulfilled that commitment.

In a July interview, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Romney about his take on the issue as he visited Israel. Romney said, "A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital."

"I think it's long been the policy to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem," Romney said, adding that the timing of such a move would be made in consultation with Israel's government.

But if Romney were elected and inherited the now-defunct "peace process," he too would almost certainly refrain from taking a stand on either Jerusalem or the embassy.

U.S. policy has long been deliberately vague on the status of Jerusalem. A federal law passed in 1995 designates Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and stipulates the American embassy should move to the city from Tel Aviv. The past three presidents, however, have signed waivers suspending the law, citing security and diplomatic concerns.

Why? Because the United States has been viewed as an "honest broker" that can mediate peace talks and persuade the parties to make the tough concessions needed to reach a deal. Washington has always needed to strike the balance between maintaining a commitment to Israel's security and reaffirming its role as one of the strongest U.S. allies with this need to remain impartial on the thorniest issues of the conflict, the fate of Jerusalem perhaps being the thorniest.

The United States usually is accused of pandering to Israel at some point in every presidential campaign. And everyone knows campaign rhetoric is just that. But when a presidential candidate plays with such a sensitive issue as a campaign pledge, it chips away ever so slightly at that "honest broker" moniker - especially when an incumbent president is the player.

 It took the Arab American Institute all of 5 minutes after the Jerusalem reference was put back into the platform to issue a statement of disappointment, warning that the amendment "flies in the face of decades of policy and the positions of President Obama, international peacemakers, and the American public at large."

Israelis consider Jerusalem the capital of their country, but Palestinians also claim right to the city as a capital of a future Palestinian state.

There is no country with a diplomatic mission to Israel that has its embassy in Jerusalem. Most are in Tel Aviv or one of its suburbs. The United States, like most other countries, currently has a consulate in Jerusalem that provides visas and other services.

In general, the argument is moot. The United States does not own Jerusalem and has no authority over its sovereignty. Israelis and Palestinians as well as Arab and Muslim states, for which Jerusalem is also a holy site, have much greater equities in its final status.

What's more, the peace process is in deep freeze, with Israelis and Palestinians further apart than ever on a peace deal settling the final-status issue. And the Obama administration, while insisting it is still working to bring the parties together, has put the issue on the back burner until after the election. The hope is that if Obama is re-elected he can revive the peace process, just like President George W. Bush, and before him Bill Clinton, did in their second terms.

Obama campaigned on improving U.S. ties with the Arab and Muslim world, yet his record has been spotty at best. Wednesday's campaign ploy certainly won't help. Should the president be re-elected, he will likely forget his campaign pledge for Jerusalem to remain the capital of Israel. But will the rest of the world?

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. fhjuytrfvg

    I see this morning israel big boss man is demanding the u.s. military invade iRan–go figure

    September 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
  2. fhjuytrfvg

    did you know that both russian & soviet karl marx and vladimier lenin were jews who today would be protected by israel using the U.S. military–funny the czar and all his familys money was taken by the ancestors of israel–how much did the U.S. spend on the cold war–I bet if you look at the original american slave trade you would find jewish fingerprints all over it–its a good old fashoned dirty con-job

    September 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Reply
  3. The Realist

    "Prone to pander"? No, they're just plain prone.

    Prone with their pants down, their cheeks spread, saying "thank you sir, may I have another"?

    September 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  4. dgjmhtd

    israel shoud stay out of the united states starting with shell oil

    September 9, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  5. hffgjhfsdfhj

    eric cantor and david koch just to name a few

    September 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  6. terujytytfh

    jews said that jews are the chosen people? Ans: correct. now what does this have to do with undue political influence and utter abuse of power–not much–or does it–hummm. I guess ill have to ask an israelie to explain it since they don't want anyone else thinking for themselves–go figure–now that is smart (sounds like somthing a israelie would tell a non israelie) after all one jew does not need to talk to another that way because it does not pay the bills–

    September 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • shrinkDave

      Most Jews believe that the notion of the chosen people is silly. Ironically, the chosen people idea is taught routinely in Christian Bible schools and classes. The Jews that believe the myth are the ultra religious who share the ethnocentric notion along with fanatics of every religion. As a Jew, I request of whomever believes the myth to please CHOOSE SOMEBODY ELSE for a change.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  7. terujytytfh

    there is no religion in calling oneself a jew or an isealie remember the iseal -never again- motto/slogan carved in stone has nothing to do with god

    September 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  8. terujytytfh

    israel should leave all u.s. politics

    September 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  9. JohnWV

    Not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital? Really dumb, never get elected that way.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:26 am | Reply
  10. Mary

    Well, the Democrat Party has finally come out of the closet admitting they're anti-God and anti-Jewish. No surprise really. What's even more embarrassing is that the mayor of Los Angles had to publicly lie to save the rodents reputation.

    How do you starve an Obama supporter?
    Just hide their Foods Stamps under their work shoes.

    September 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  11. Steve

    Israel has too much control over U.S. politics, even the article states that the American Israeli political action committee holds too much power over our elected officislas where they can not be a mediator in the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

    Israel needs to stop meddling in our politics and our daily lives

    AMERICA IS FOR EVERYONE not just jews, 98% of the United States has all different races, religions, and ethnicities and need to be respected not just the jews

    September 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      You're correct that 98% of Americans are NOT Jews. Therefore, it is difficult to accept the idea that 2% dictate the policies to the remaining 98%. It is even more difficult to accept the complaints about AIPAC considering that the amount of petrodollars in the disposal of the Arabs exceeds by far the wildest dreams of all Jewish moguls combined.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:19 am | Reply
      • The Realist

        The Arabs don't have a strangle-hold over the broadcast media.

        The Israel Lobby does, and that's the reason our Congress of Cowards refuses to stand up to them.

        September 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • shrinkDave

      Please provide an example of Jews meddling in American affairs. Alternately, maybe you are in favor of a law that would limit the civil rights of Jews in the US.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Reply
      • The Realist

        Here's an idea:

        Arrest every officer of the Anti Defamation League for failure to register as agents of a foreign government!

        Take away the tax-exempt status of every Zionist organization.

        Cancel the passport of any American Jew who serves in the Israeli army.

        How's that for starters?

        September 9, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  12. saeed

    soon iran will nuke israel with a sejill missile armed with a nuclear warhead let the jews burn.

    September 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
    • Jerry Gentry

      Hey seed,... Israel is the Lord's Chosen people. Too bad for you that you cannot say the same. Hope you don't mind HEAT.

      September 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Reply
      • saeed

        funny thats why the jews get killed all the time just last month some jew in israel got shoot through the face at the gaza border. israel dont even have a commercial nuclear power plant israel cant even build a submarine man the jews are a stupid people.

        September 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • shrinkDave

      Please note what has happened to past cultures that have attempted to annihilate Jews.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply

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