Despite reports by Obama campaign officials that the president himself stepped in this week to reinsert into the 2012 Democratic Party platform language referring to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the administration still seems undecided on the issue.
At a State Department briefing on Thursday — one day after delegates to the Democratic National Convention voted, somewhat reluctantly, for the president’s proposed changes to the manifesto — Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell refused to name Israel’s capital.
Dodging persistent questioning, Ventrell repeated only that the status of Jerusalem is an issue to be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The following exchange was transcribed and published on the State Department’s website:
QUESTION: Which city does the US Government recognize as the capital in the – Israel?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, longstanding Administration policy, both in this Administration and in previous administrations across both parties, is that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. So that’s longstanding Administration policy and continues to be so.
QUESTION: I mean, no city is recognized as a capital by the US Government?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I just stated our position, and it’s one we’ve said here many times before.
QUESTION: That means Jerusalem is not a part of Israel?
MR. VENTRELL: What it means is that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved in final status negotiations.
QUESTION: But you do have an Embassy in a city which is not Jerusalem.
MR. VENTRELL: Our Embassy is in Tel Aviv, and we have a Consulate General in Jerusalem.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if you have an Embassy, usually it’s in the capital; so therefore, it would appear that you believe that Tel Aviv is the capital.
MR. VENTRELL: What we believe is that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in final status negotiations between the two parties. And currently, our Embassy is in Tel Aviv.
QUESTION: Are there any other countries in the world where the US doesn’t know what the capital is or won’t say what the capital of a country is?
QUESTION: What does the US think the capital of Israel is? What do you —
MR. VENTRELL: As I’ve just said, we believe that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status —
QUESTION: I’m not asking you that question. I’m asking you what you think the capital is.
MR. VENTRELL: And my response is that Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations.
QUESTION: She didn’t ask about Jerusalem, though.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, this is something we’ve been through at this podium. Toria has been through it before. We’ve repeated it many times. You know what the position is. It hasn’t changed for decades.
QUESTION: Wait, I know that. And I don’t want to play the verbal game, I’m just very curious if you actually have a position about a capital of that country. And if you don’t, if – I just would like to hear you say you don’t.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, right now, Nicole —
MR. VENTRELL: — the situation is that we have an Embassy in Tel Aviv that represents our interests with the Government of Israel but that the issue of Jerusalem is one that has to be resolved between the two parties. That’s all I can say on this.