CHARLOTTE (EJP)--- In a speech that largely focused on economic and domestic issues, Barack Obamahe brushed over Wednesday’s controversy over the party’s omission of Israeli capital Jerusalem from the party’s platform, instead declaring that US “commitment to Israel must not waiver, and neither must our pursuit of peace”.
Obama sought to restore his lead in the polls ahead of November’s US presidential elections, as he closed out the National Democratic Convention Thursday, insisting his leadership was “tested and proven”.
In a speech that largely focussed on economic and domestic issues, he brushed over Wednesday’s controversy over the party’s omission of Israeli capital Jerusalem from the party mandate, instead declaring that US “commitment to Israel must not waiver, and neither must our pursuit of peace”.
Seeking an unprecedented second term in office, amidst spiralling unemployment rates, he added that his record showed consistent emphasis on “advancing the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews”.
The president was clearly keen to present a more optimistic portrait of America emerging from a global crisis than his Republican presidential rival, Governor Mitt Romney, stressing that whilst the path towards economic recovery might be long and arduous, “know this America: Our problems can be solved”.
His can-do attitude extended to global concerns, as he spoke of the international community uniting to confront an Iranian government resisting its fight against its contested nuclear ambitions. Slamming Romney’s lack of practical foreign policy experience, he stressed “the historic change sweeping across the Arab world must not be defined by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists”, adding that it was imperative America did not return to the “era of blustering and blundering” during the Cold War with Russia.
The president made scant reference to the Republican party’s attempts to capitalise on the Jerusalem furore, which saw Obama instruct the party to readmit mentions of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and God into its manifesto.
Dismissing the episode, he said “as Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away”, concluding his rousing address by saying “providence is with us and we are surely blessed to be the citizens of the greatest nation on earth”.
Whilst the US does not officially recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, choosing, like many international governments, to maintain its embassy in Second City Tel Aviv, the Democratic party platform was updated Wednesday to declare that Jerusalem “is and will remain the capital of Israel”. Having previously pledged to update American policy regarding the capital, Romney by contrast only refers to the issue in passing in his party’s mandate, which mentions “Two democratic States: Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, and Palestine, living in peace and security.”
Despite Obama’s best efforts, the controversy threatened to rumble on, as Palestinian officials condemned the Jerusalem reversal as a cynical play for Jewish votes. An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, denounced the effort to reassert Obama’s commitment to Israel as “election propaganda”, adding Thursday that his failure to recognise the Palestinian claim to the capital could “destroy the peace process” and provoke “endless war”.
US State department backtracks on Jerusalem commitment
However, at a State Department briefing on Thursday, the administration seemed to backtrack somewhat on its commitments, with Acting Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell reverting to its longtime policy of commenting that “the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians”.
Obama’s advisors were meanwhile keen to assert that changes reflected the president’s own personal attitude to Jerusalem, with his top Middle East aide Robert Wexler telling Israeli daily Haaretz the move was intended to “create a platform of language focused on the vital issue of the day – the security threats to Israel”. He further added Obama thought it “wise” for the Palestinians to re-enter into direct talks with Israel.
Abbas has so far rejected Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s called for one-on-one negotiations, declaring talks won’t start until Israel ceases with its contested settlement building activity in the West Bank.