One Jerusalem, Indivisible

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Jerusalem.jpgThe big story out of Obama’s speech to AIPAC yesterday was the following sentence: “And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” It is, among other things, the headline in Haaretz’s prominently featured story. The comment should be seen in the context of a statement made three weeks ago by Obama’s top adviser on Israel/Palestine, former ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, to the effect that the status of Jerusalem has to be on the table in peace negotiations between the two sides. Naturally, this elicited strong antipathy from Jewish hardliners. No less surprisingly, Obama’s statement elicited strong antipathy from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
No question, this was a calculated move on Obama’s part–one that, it seems to me, is likely to cause him some trouble after November (assuming he’s elected). For the nonce, however, it puts him safely to the right of McCain on Israel/Palestine even as he continues to fight the GOP nominee over U.S. policy toward Iran. It might cost him some American Muslim/Arab votes, and that could matter in Michigan, which will matter. But I would be very surprised to see American Muslim voters (many of whom are African American) lining up behind McCain. Arab states will, not without justice, put this down to typical American electioneering.
Of course, a fair number of Jews will retain their Obama-skepticism. But the statement certainly will provide some reassurance, and there are a good number of Jewish voters who matter in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio who need to be reassured. And in the end, I don’t think “undivided Jerusalem” is going to prove to be Obama’s “read my lips: no new taxes” moment–should the time come for getting a real Israeli/Palestinian deal done.