Romney, Obama and the future of Jerusalem

What helped set the stage for former Massachusettes Governor Mitt Romney's visit to Israel this week was a heated exchange several days earlier between President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, and several reporters in the White House briefing room.

Carney adamantly refused to answer their repeated questions about the view of the U.S. on what the capital of Israel was. He only answered: "Our position hasn't changed." He kept dodging the question when it was asked again. All Romney had to do to set his position apart from that of the Obama administration was to craft a single sentence which provided the clarity that Carney had avoided.

Romney opened his first public address during his Israel visit with the words: “It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.” The choreography of Romney's speech was almost as important as its content. He was not going to go into detailed aspects of his Middle East policy and directly criticize the Obama administration while he was outside the U.S. But Romney could also deliver a strong statement just by his location. He stood before the golden walls of Jerusalem at sunset, just as the fast of Tisha B'av, commemorating the destruction of the temple, was drawing to an end.

With this solemn setting, at the very beginning of his speech, he also acknowledged Israel's historical rights: "To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began with an ancient promise made in this land." With this, there was a subtle critique of Obama's famous Cairo speech from 2009, which tied the creation of Israel to the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. Obama's speech did not address the ancient ties of the Jewish people to their land that predated the horrors of the 20th century. In contrast, Romney began his visit to Israel by acknowledging Jerusalem, with its historic past, as part of modern Israel's origins....

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