NEW YORK (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama misused a "code word" in Middle East politics when he said Jerusalem should be Israel’s "undivided" capital but that does not mean he is naive on foreign policy, a top adviser said on Tuesday.
Addressing a pro-Israel lobby group this month, the Democratic White House hopeful said: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
The comment angered Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future state. "He has closed all doors to peace," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said after the June 4 speech.
Obama later said Palestinians and Israelis had to negotiate the status of the city, in line with long-held U.S. presidential policy.
Daniel Kurtzer, who advises Obama on the Middle East, said Tuesday at the Israel Policy Forum that Obama’s comment stemmed from "a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones."
One member of the audience who said the remark — and its subsequent clarifications — did not speak well of Obama’s foreign policy knowledge.
Kurtzer said it was unfortunate that so much time was being spent dwelling on one word of a 30-minute speech, "but it does not indicate any kind of naivete about foreign affairs."
Obama has faced wariness among some Jewish voters over his commitment to Israel, fueled by suspicion over his comments indicating willingness to talk to Iranian leaders.