Obama may have a “Jerusalem problem.” The other day in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee he told the audience that Jerusalem “must remain undivided”. Now it’s not as clear. Read below from The Washington Post.
Facing criticism from Palestinians, Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged yesterday that the status of Jerusalem will need to be negotiated in future peace talks, amending a statement earlier in the week that the city "must remain undivided."
Obama's statement, made during a speech Wednesday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, drew a swift rebuke from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"This statement is totally rejected," Abbas told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "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."
The Bush administration's official position is that the status of Jerusalem must be decided by the parties. Before he left office, President Bill Clinton proposed a formula under which "Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city," including locating the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
Obama quickly backtracked yesterday in an interview with 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," Obama said when asked whether Palestinians had no future claim to the city.
Obama said "as a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute" a division of the city. "And I think that it is smart for us to -- to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city."
But Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) later said on behalf of the Obama campaign that Obama's comment to CNN should not be seen as backtracking or even an amendment. He said Obama was clarifying that he has long believed it is up to the parties involved to determine the status of Jerusalem.
Israel is a very touch subject for Obama. It is a confluence of so many different potential pitfalls.
First of all, he needs the Jewish vote. They are skeptical of him for a number of reasons including what some believe are strong ties to the Palestinian community. Secondly, if he’s looking to make an impact with Christians across the country, he needs to be strong on Israel because of Evangelicals strong support for the country. The Obama campaign SHOULD NOT underestimate how Israel and the Christian community are linked. In addition, the issue of national security is at play here too along with the judgment and experience factors it takes to be President. This is a major tight rope for Obama and you can bet the McCain campaign will be quick to bring it up.