Obama backtracks on an undivided J'lem

Presidential candidate: AIPAC comments were "badly phrased;" says city is a final status issue.

obama shadows 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
obama shadows 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In his first major speech minutes after clinching the Democrat nomination as the party's candidate for the US presidential election, Barack Obama surprised listeners at an AIPAC convention by saying Jerusalem should be Israel's "undivided" capital. However, the Illinois senator retracted his comments on Sunday, saying that they were "badly phrased." "You know, the truth is that this was an example where we had some poor phrasing in the speech, and we immediately tried to correct the interpretation that was given," Obama said during an interview on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria - GPS." "The point we were simply making was that we don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the '67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent. I was not trying to predetermine what are essentially final-status issues," he continued. The senator explained that despite the error in conveying his message, he did not intend to abandon the notion that the two sides - Israel and the Palestinians - should discuss such issues on their own, with strong backing from the United States. Israel, Obama said, must realize that its existence in the long term is dependent on its ability to achieve peace with its neighbors, while the Palestinian leadership must recognize the fact that the battles it fights, the direction in which it is going and the rhetoric it uses do not "deliver the goods" for the Palestinian people. What Israeli citizens want and what the residents of the West Bank long for is a pragmatic approach that would allow them to be safe, live their lives and educate their children, Obama added. Obama is scheduled to come to Israel for a brief 24-hour visit next week as part of a European and Middle Easter tour (during which he will visit Germany, France, the United Kingdom and also Iraq and Jordan). Obama's campaign headquarters have not yet published his itinerary and the precise date of his arrival, but he is scheduled to visit the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and take a helicopter trip to Sderot. Additionally, Obama will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. A Palestinian official said on Monday that Obama will visit the West Bank during the trip. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the Democratic presidential contender will travel to Ramallah on July 23. He said Obama is scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Erekat said the Palestinians "welcome this meeting," and added that if he is elected US president, the Palestinians hope "he will stay the course between Israel and the Palestinians in reaching peace." A poll published by Newsweek recently found that Obama is still the favored candidate, though by a smaller margin than last month. Obama enjoys 44 percent of support, while Republican nominee John McCain enjoys 41%. In a similar poll conducted last month, Obama led with 51% support and McCain was trailing with only 36%.