ZOA Criticizes Senator Obama For Backtracking On Jerusalem’s Unity
June 6, 2008


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama for backtracking within 24 hours of reaffirming his stated belief that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” Senator Obama placed on the record this commitment to Jerusalem as Israel‘s united capital in an address before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, D.C., on June 4. Yet, the very next day, an Obama campaign adviser nullified this commitment, saying “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 … Jerusalem remains Israel’s capital and it’s not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967… Beyond those principles, all other aspects are for the two parties to agree at final status negotiations.” The adviser refused to rule out other configurations, such as the city also serving as the capital of a Palestinian state or Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods. (Hilary Leila Krieger, ‘Obama backtracks on a united J’lem,’ Jerusalem Post, June 6, 2008).


Senator Obama had also affirmed in a 2000 position paper that, “Jerusalem should remain united and should be recognized as Israel’s capital” and at the time expressed “disappointment over President Clinton’s recent decision to use the waiver provision contained in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 to delay the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem” (Andrew Malcolm, Before Obama’s pro-Israel stance was a deep feeling for Palestinians,’ ‘Top of the Ticket’ blog, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2008).


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We view this instant reversal as deeply troubling. We were initially concerned about how we can reconcile his pro-Israel AIPAC speech of Jerusalem and Israel with the fact that Obama has been a member and major donor of a church for twenty years whose pastor has made numerous anti-Israel speeches; and Obama’s recent statement saying that the Islamist terror groups Hizballah and Hamas have legitimate claims (New York Times, May 16, 2008); and his close associations with radical anti-Israel activists, including Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor at Columbia University, and Ali Abunimah, the founder of Electronic Intifadah. (In fact, Abunimah says that Obama told him in 2004, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front. … Keep up the good work!’); and perhaps most important of all, most of Senator Obama’s Middle East advisers, past and present, including Daniel Kurtzer, are to a greater or lesser degree hostile to Israel.


“All this leads Israel‘s supporters to be concerned about how credible Senator Obama’s current professions of support for Israel are. This new backtracking on the Jerusalem issue only heightens that concern. Moreover, his aide came up with a tortuous redefinition of Jerusalem‘s unity that deprives the term ‘unity’ of any meaning. If Senator Obama disagrees with his aide’s remarks, he should say so without delay.


Jerusalem is a major issue for American Jews and in fact AIPAC, following a ZOA-proposed amendment, overwhelmingly approved for its action agenda to support implementation of U.S. law to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem without delay and urge the Administration to refrain from using the presidential security waiver to postpone that move.”


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