Obama, Palestinians irked by Romney remarks on Jerusalem

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

The Obama White House and the Palestinian Authority this week expressed dissatisfaction, frustration and anger over Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's very public recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In an address to Israeli leaders and international donors in Jerusalem on Sunday, Romney clearly identified the city as "the capital of Israel."

It was a stark break from US presidential policy dating back over 15 years, and an indication that should he win the White House in November, Romney will finally approve a 1995 congressional decision to move America's embassy to Jerusalem.

The current American administration was not amused.

"Some people are scratching their heads a bit" over Romney's remarks, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, noting that the Republican candidate is defying a position "that’s been held by previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican. So if Mr. Romney disagrees with that position, he’s also disagreeing with the position that was taken by Presidents like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan."

The Palestinians were far more vehement in their rejection of Romney's remarks.

"Even if this statement is within the US election campaign, it is unacceptable and we completely reject it. The US election campaign should never be at the expense of the Palestinians,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC. “Romney is rewarding occupation, settlement and extremism in the region with such declarations."

In another interview, Erekat warned that if this truly is Romney's intended policy as president, it would be "harmful to American interests in our region."

Hamas also had some choice words for Romney over what it saw as his "racist and extremist" positions.

"Romney’s statements on Jerusalem distort the truth, falsify history and misguide public opinion,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Palestinian media. “They provoke the emotions of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims and encourage Judaization [of Jerusalem] and settlement building."

Despite the archaeologically-backed Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem, and the extensively documented fact that Jerusalem was Israel's ancient capital, the Palestinian Arabs now claim the city as their own, and insist that its eastern half be made devoid of Jews.

In 1995, the US Congress officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and legislated that the American embassy be moved there. But every six months since, a succession of American presidents have invoked a national security clause to postpone implementation of that legislation, fearing an Arab and Muslim backlash.

Both Israel and the Palestinians believe Romney may reverse that policy.

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