White House Differs with Romney on Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

July 30, 2012 - 4:22 PM

Jerusalem's Old City

Jerusalem’s Old City viewed from the Mount of Olives. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday said the contested city will remain Israel’s unified capital. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – In what marks a decisive difference in the presidential campaign, one day after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the White House asserted that Romney’s position was different from that of the Obama administration.

“Our view is that that is a different position than this administration holds. It’s the view of this administration that the capital should be determined in final status negotiations between parties,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.

“I would remind you that that is the position that has been held by previous administrations both Democratic and Republican. So, if Mr. Romney disagrees with that position, he is also disagreeing with positions taken by previous presidents like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan,” Earnest added.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney struggled during the afternoon press briefing to answer what the capital of Israel was, insisting reporters already knew the administration’s policy and that the policy was not changed. Hours later he issued a written answer, stating it will be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Sunday, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, spoke from Jerusalem addressing the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

“It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Romney said. “Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel.

“We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace. We serve the same cause and provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization,” he added.

On Thursday, IRN-USA Radio News reporter Connie Lawn asked Carney, “What city does this administration consider to be the capital of Israel – Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?”

Carney said, “I haven’t had that question in a while. Our position has not changed, Connie.”

The reporter followed, “What is the position? What’s the capital?”

Carney responded, “You know our position.”

Lawn said, “I don't.”

Later on Thursday evening, Carney issued a written statement to answer the question.

“The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Carney said in a written statement. “We continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue and others in a way that is just and fair, and respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The statement mirrors the troubles that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had at a March 29 press briefing.

According to the official State Department transcript, a reporter asked Nuland, “Is it the view of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, notwithstanding the question about the Embassy, the location of the U.S. Embassy?”

Nuland said, “We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem.”

The reporter said, “Does that mean that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?”

Nuland responded, “Jerusalem is a permanent status issue; it’s got to be resolved through negotiations.”

The reporter asked, “That seems to suggest that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Is that correct or not?”

Nuland responded, “I have just spoken to this issue –”

The reporter went on to ask, “You’ve spoken to the issue but didn’t answer the question, and I think there’s a lot of people out there who are interested in hearing a real answer and not saying – and not trying to duck and say that this has got to be resolved by negotiations between the two sides.” The reporter again asked, “What is the capital of Israel?”

Nuland said, “Our policy with regard to Jerusalem is it has to be solved through negotiations. That’s all I have to say on this issue.”

The reporter again asked, “What is the capital of Israel?”

Nuland answered, “Our Embassy, as you know, is located in Tel Aviv.”

The reporter responded, “So does that mean that you regard Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel?”

Nuland said, “The issue on Jerusalem has to be settled through negotiations.”

The Washington Free Beacon first reported in March that the State Department had quietly altered an official communication that originally referred to Israel and Jerusalem as separate entities.