Mitt Romney’s recent visit to Jerusalem drummed up a few controversies: his top adviser upped the war rhetoric on Iran, Romney suggested Palestinian culture is “inferior to Israeli culture,” and he proclaimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a designation no U.S. administration has made in more than six decades.
Now, a right-wing pressure group is out with an ad lauding Romney’s Jerusalem position. But the group appears to be getting “a little ahead” of Romney himself — as an aide put it when a top neoconservative adviser staked out an especially hawkish position on Iran. The group, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), released an ad praising Romney for declaring that Jerusalem is the “capital of Israel.”
Mitt Romney understands the meaning of Jerusalem, whole and free, the capital of Israel.
The division of Jerusalem is a key sticking point in the stalled peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. While Israel annexed the whole city — a move the U.S. and international community don’t recognize — Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Campaigning in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama dove into this territory by telling an audience that Jerusalem “must remain undivided,” but walked the statement back shortly thereafter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, generally regarded as a hard-liner, has gone back and forth on the issue. He told PBS last year that, while he wanted Jerusalem to remain “united,” the city’s final status would only be decided “after a negotiation.” But earlier this year, Netanyahu said, “Jerusalem will remain forever the united capital of the State of Israel.”
Declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, while breaking with long-standing U.S. policy, is one thing. But declaring that Jerusalem will not be divided — even if that could potentially kill any dimming hopes for a two-state solution — is quite another. As the vociferous Romney supporter and Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin has written in the past about merely moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem:
If we want to maintain our role as a future broker in the (however presently dormant) “peace process,” we’re not going to make a move that will be read as a fait accompli on the final status of Jerusalem.
Rubin is (was) right, and some intrepid campaign reporter should ask Mitt Romney if he agrees with Kristol’s characterization of his position and whether Jerusalem’s division is, as Netanyahu has claimed before, on the table for negotiations.