Obama surprise: Says Jerusalem will remain undivided

Thursday, June 05, 2008 |  staff writer  

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama asssured American Jews that he would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear arms, and that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel, a surprisingly tough stance.

"Let me be clear, Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper," Obama said. "But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

Obama’s statements were made to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Wednesday, a Jewish lobby. While the remarks sat well with the Jewish audience, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lambasted Obama saying there would be no peace without a resolution of the status of Jerusalem.

"The whole world knows that holy Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and we will not accept a Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital," Abbas said.

The US State Department also distanced itself from Obama's remarks, saying any final decisions on the toughest issues in the peace talks were for Israel and the Palestinians to make.

Obama refuted rumors that he has Muslim roots and took a tougher stance on Iran than he has in the past. The Republican candidate, John McCain, has assailed Obama for suggesting a willingness to talk directly to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Obama has since said he would not guarantee a meeting with the Iranian president and in the AIPAC speech he actually spelled out conditions for what he said would be "tough and principled diplomacy" with Tehran. He also dealt with Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization, which controls the Gaza Strip.

“We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements," Obama said. "There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations."

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