Obama 'softens' Jerusalem stance

Anger after presidential hopeful speaks of "undivided Jerusalem" as Israeli capital.

    Barack Obama said he spoke as a
    "true friend" of Israel [AFP]
    Illegal occupation
     
    Obama's remarks to Aipac days earlier appalled Palestinians, who see occupied East Jerusalem as part of a future Palestinian state.
     
    Israel has occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem since the 1967 war, a move considered illegal under international law.
     
    Jerusalem's status as part of Israel is also not internationally recognised and remains a central issue in peace negotiations.
     
    Obama told CNN that dividing Jerusalem "would be very difficult to execute".
     
    "And I think that it is smart for us to - to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem, but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city."
     
    US 'bias'
     
    The US Congress passed a law in 1995 describing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel that said it should not be divided.
     
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    Successive US presidents have maintained the US embassy in Tel Aviv and have publicly backed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
     
    Arabs have consistently condemned the US as being biased in favour of Israel.
     
    Obama claimed victory in the Democratic nomination race late on Tuesday after a gruelling six-month primary election.
     
    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, rejected the statement to Aipac, saying: "We will not accept an independent Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital."
     
    'Ammunition to extremists'
     
    Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told Al Jazeera on Thursday: "This is the worst thing to happen to us since 1967 ... he has given ammunition to extremists across the region".

    Obama said an "undivided Jerusalem should
    remain the capital of Israel" [AFP]

    "What really disappoints me is that someone like Barack Obama, who runs a campaign on the theme of change - when it comes to Aipac and what's needed to be said differently about the Palestinian state, he fails."

     

    "I say to Obama ... please stop being more Israeli than the Israelis themselves, leave the Israelis and Palestinians alone to make decisions required for peace."

    Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also condemned the speech, saying on Thursday: "These statements slash any hope of any change in the American foreign policy.

    "[They] assure that there is a total agreement between the two parties, the Democratic and the Republican, on support for the Israeli occupation at the expense of the rights of Arab and Palestinian interests."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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