David Axelrod pronounces: “The president agrees that Jerusalem as an issue can’t be the first issue for negotiations.” What’s more, he wants us to know that “Jerusalem should ‘probably be the last’ issue negotiated, Axelrod said, echoing the position of Israel’s government, which is that the issue is too sensitive to discuss before other issues, including borders, are settled.”
So let’s review. The adviser who went on the Sunday talk shows to make clear how angry Obama was over a Jerusalem housing project and has personally counseled the president to go beserk with the Israelis over the issue and who presumably is aware of the threat to abstain rather than veto a UN resolution should that building proceed now says it’s the last issue we should talk about. If you’re confused, I’m sure the parties in the region are, too. There are several explanations.
Perhaps Axelrod and the rest of the Obama crew are simply telling every party what it wants to hear, raising Palestinian expectations and simultaneously giving Jews assurances on the Israeli capital. It is a recipe for disaster, of course, once negotiations begin and everyone has a different set of expectations and understanding of the U.S. position.
Another explanation: Obama has abandoned the entire Jerusalem gambit after raising it to the level of an international incident, damaging U.S.-Israel relations, and encouraging more Palestinian violence. It would be a remarkable turnaround.
Or the Obama brain trust may be practicing some bizarre word games and hoping everyone plays along. Yes, yes, Jerusalem is a final status issue, but we can’t let Israel “predetermine” the outcome by building in its capital (even though this was precisely the agreement reached with the Bush administration), so “final” doesn’t mean they won’t make demands on the Israeli government now.
It’s not clear what the Obama gurus are up to or whether there is even a strategy here. Whatever it is, it certainly is not “smart” — that is, coherent, credible, and clear — diplomacy.