Barack Obama had to backtrack on foreign policy yet again today, this time on Jerusalem. He tried to outdo John McCain at AIPAC yesterday by insisting that Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of Israel. The Palestinians erupted in anger at that statement, and by the end of the day they had Obama backpedaling:
Facing criticism from Palestinians, Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged today that the status of Jerusalem will need to be negotiated in future peace talks, amending a statement earlier in the week that Jerusalem “must remain undivided.”
Obama, during a speech Wednesday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-israel lobbying group, had called for Jerusalem to become the site of the U.S. embassy, a frequent pledge for U.S. presidential candidates. (It is now in Tel Aviv.) But his statement that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel drew a swift rebuke from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The US has no official position on the status of Jerusalem other than to insist that the two parties work it out between themselves. It is considered one of the most sensitive points in negotiations between the PA and Israel, and most diplomats avoid mentioning it at all to avoid unnecessary provocations while trying to get the two parties to talk.
Obama apparently doesn’t know that — because he hasn’t any experience at it. Today he tried extracting his foot from his mouth, without much success:
Obama quickly backtracked today in an interview with CNN.
“Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations,” Obama said when asked whether Palestinians had no future claim to the city.
Yes, obviously. Unfortunately, in learning a lesson on foreign policy, Obama managed to anger both parties and forced them into making public demands that only make diplomacy more difficult later. This is what happens when candidates with no experience in diplomacy and foreign policy think themselves experts in both.
How many of these can we expect to see with Obama in the White House?
Update: Soren Dayton wonders what this quick reversal after Palestinian criticism means for an Obama/Ahmadinejad meeting.