23 September 2008 - Obama comfortable with Palestinian control over Old City
"Let me be clear....Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
And then the next day:
"Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties."
Obama blamed "poor phrasing" for the first line, and said what he objected to was a physical division of the city "by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967."
But that revealed nothing about where he believes the boundary of the city ought to be.
He added, later:
"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."
What is that city? And what will Israel's claim consist of?
The Obama campaign has left these questions unanswered.
But one possible inference is that Obama would be comfortable with an arrangement that removes the Old City from Israeli control, so long as Jews are guaranteed access to holy sites and Israel's "legitimate claim" is recognized.
And who will be the custodians of those guarantees? Who will be responsible for honoring that claim? Can the Israelis trust the Palestinians to do so?
In plain language, it seems Obama favors an agreement in which Israel cedes sovereignty over the Old City to the Palestinians in exchange for mere promises of safe passage and religious tolerance.
In Israeli terms, that's a non-starter.