Last night’s statement from the Obama campaign clarifying the candidate’s reference to an eternally undivided Jerusalem in his AIPAC speech yesterday, shows why he’s among the best politicians on the American scene; and why he just may become our next president.
In my critique of his speech, I singled this phrase out for special criticism as I thought it needlessly compromised future flexibility in dealing with the issue of Jerusalem. Many in the blogosphere and Palestinians as well took special umbrage at Obama’s attempt to curry favor with the no-compromise set among the AIPAC membership.
But yesterday brought this Jerusalem Post article in which Obama’s camp “clarified” his statement:
…Barack Obama did not rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem when he called for Israel’s capital to remain “undivided,” his campaign told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
“Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided,” Obama declared Wednesday, to rousing applause from the 7,000-plus attendees at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.
But a campaign adviser clarified Thursday that Obama believes “Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties” as part of “an agreement that they both can live with.”
“Two principles should apply to any outcome,” which the adviser gave as: “Jerusalem remains Israel’s capital and it’s not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967.”
Not every politician can get away with this sort of rhetorical “nimbleness.” What he’s done is mollify the AIPAC crowd with his original statement. And in the follow-up he’s expressed what I believe is his true policy agenda. And he’s artfully fudged the difference by referring to the division of Jerusalem between the War of Independence and 1967 War. Personally, I believe most people will give him the benefit of the doubt. The only ones who won’t are the militants like Mort Klein, Malcolm Hoenlein and Daniel Pipes (joined, of course, by those on the far left who don’t trust Obama’s fealty to Palestinian rights). But Obama never expected to convince them to begin with, and certainly doesn’t need to to become president.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.