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Oh, So That’s What He Meant!

Barack Obama is now clarifying further his stance on Jerusalem. Last month he told the AIPAC policy conference that he believed Jerusalem should remain “undivided.” In Jewish historical terms, this is a very loaded term: It means that the Jewish people’s historical capital city, home of the Temple of Solomon and the biblical Jerusalem, a city whose ancient precincts were cut off from Jewish worshipers for 19 years between 1948 and 1967, which was finally reunited in the Six Day War — that this city will remain exclusively part of the Jewish state under any future agreement with the Palestinians. Undivided — what it sounds like.

Later that day, it became clear to Obama’s handlers that he had been mishandled, and they issued a clarification, that of course, suggesting that he hadn’t really meant to take any position that might “prejudice” the “final status.” But apparently this was not clear enough, so now Obama is once again clarifying. As the Jerusalem Post reports, Obama told Fareed Zakaria on CNN on Sunday that his handlers were right, and he was wrong. His speech was “poorly phrased.” His actual position:

The point we were simply making was, is that we don’t want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the ’67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent. I was not trying to predetermine what are essentially final-status issues.

As clarifications go, this one’s a doozy. What could it possibly mean to want a “coherent” city that is the capital of two different countries, one of which has been teaching its entire population to hate the other and commit suicide bombings in its restaurants for 15 years now — and all this without a proper border? I live in Jerusalem. The border between Israel and the Palestinians, wherever it may run, and no matter how long peace reigns, will never be like that between Massachusetts and Connecticut. It is unlikely ever even to be like the one between Arizona and Mexico. If there is ever a division of Jerusalem, there will be more than just barbed wire separating the two halves of the city. We are talking about different worlds entirely, and security arrangements will reflect this.

So either Obama understands all of this, and is not being honest with voters when he backtracks from the “undivided” position. Or he doesn’t understand this, in which case he was better off not clarifying. It would be nice if an interviewer would push him hard on this point. We might learn something new.


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