The White House press secretary got his shoelaces pretty well tangled when asked to name the capital of Israel yesterday:
It’s a fine diplomatic line for the U.S. government, which has long held the official position that Jerusalem’s disposition will be part of final-status negotiations while politicians and presidents have often given more rhetorical support for Jerusalem as capital than the official line. Israel’s governing body, the Knesset, is in Jerusalem but the U.S. Embassy remains in Tel Aviv despite a 1995 law passed by Congress requiring it to be moved to the holy city by 1999. Clinton, Bush, and Obama alike have failed to act on the law, and the U.S. maintains a Consulate General in Jerusalem.
Carney’s being asked about it because the State Department, in March, was caught by the Free Beacon listing Israel and Jerusalem as different entities entirely. State later scrubbed the impolitic communique, but not before it led to an equally uncomfortable exchange over Israel’s capital with State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland:
Last year, Daniel Halper reported the White House was changing “Jerusalem, Israel” to just “Jerusalem” in its photo captions.
The fight over Jerusalem is nothing new, but this administration’s obvious bumbling on the issue plays into a perception of Obama as unfriendly to Israel, which is one perception George W. Bush didn’t have to worry about.
And, it can’t help with this.