As covered rather extensively, Mitt Romney spoke in Jerusalem on Sunday. We of course sent an At the Gates of the City correspondent to cover what was an important episode in the saga of the upcoming Presidential elections. And by “of course,” I mean that I have very nice friends who were kind enough to invite me and got me in.
The fall-out has been more interesting than the speech itself (posted here for your enjoyment. Just don’t get too excited. It’s what I succeeded in getting with my iPod..).
His speech was not all that different from a standard stump speech that many Congresspeople give concerning the importance of the US-Israel relationship, since it’s, you know, important (also, he seems to have a speech writer who’s fond of alliteration.. See if you can pick up on his favorite word). There’s been a lot of coverage on one specific bulletpoint of Sunday’s speech, though: Romney stating that Jerusalem is the capital of the country. The United States’ stance on Jerusalem has been changing, though bills have already been passed insisting that the American Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (here and here, read more about it here), which would be seen as an official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital. The Commander in Chief has always blocked such action, though.
Al Arabiya reported that President Obama wanted some clarification on Governor Romney’s speech, especially concerning this point. I’m assuming it’s just an election-period attempt to embarrass Romney and make it appear as though he’s bumbling these foreign visits (They found something else for London), since the President kinda sorta said the same exact thing in 2008 at his AIPAC speech (the longer, 36 minute version is here, but I thought I’d save you some time) when he was Candidate Obama.
Things have changed a bit..
So President Obama is reprimanding Governor Romney on the precise point Obama made during his candidacy. He backpedaled immediately, and has spent his presidency heading in the opposite direction, but an undivided Jerusalem was something past presidents avoided aggressively. President Bush spent his entire term postponing the transfer of the Embassy, and President Clinton even divided the city in his 2000 Clinton parameters after the talks at Camp David fell through. President Obama has been uninterested in precedent, however, so I guess he just thought he knew better than his predecessors.
So what purpose does discussion of a united Jerusalem serve? The diplomatic relationship between Israel and the United States has gotten worse in these last few years. Israel often needs the United States’ support to protect itself, but many analysts have concluded that the Israelis don’t totally trust the Obama administration. Though the US and Israeli security relationship has arguably never been closer (a topic for another post), President Obama’s promises concerning the status of Jerusalem has turned that particular guarantee into a non-starter, since he also made Netanyahu promise things no other Prime Minister ever promised before sitting at a negotiating table, then failed to get the Palestinians to join.
The hubbub over this particular point is unnecessary. We have a sitting President who has said the exact same thing, then has allowed diplomatic relations to devolve. To improve relations with Israel, maybe Obama should stop trying to support every new flavor of the month in the increasingly unstable region and instead support Israel in international forums when our diplomats work to better relations with other countries.