What's Israel's capital? White House spokesman can't answer
After White House spokesman Jay Carney avoids answering question over which city the U.S. government considers Israel's capital, Republicans fire back • "Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people, but this administration refuses to say if Jerusalem is the true capital," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says.
Yoni Hirsch and The Associated Press
A capital offense? White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Photo credit: Reuters
While presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made his way to Israel over the weekend, his campaign team were attacking the Obama administration after White House spokesman Jay Carney had trouble responding to a question by a reporter over which city the U.S. government consider's Israel's capital – Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
During a routine press briefing on Thursday, Carney was asked to comment on the issue. At first he dismissed the question, saying, "Our position has not changed."
But the reporter insisted on an answer, asking what the administration's position was. "You know our position," Carney said, moving quickly to the next topic.
Later, the White House released a transcript of Carney's comments to the media, and included a statement clarifying Washington's position on the issue.
"The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final-status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," the statement said. "We continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue and others in a way that is just and fair, and respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians."
Republicans, however, were not satisfied by the White House's clarification. Romney's campaign team on Friday circulated a statement by the most senior Jewish representative in Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, criticizing Carney's evasiveness.
"For thousands of years, Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people, but this administration refuses to say if Jerusalem is the true capital," Cantor said. "At a moment when Israel is facing so many perils, the United States should be standing by our ally, not quibbling or quarreling about its capital city.”
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress in 1995, calls for Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel. Since its passage, the law has never been implemented.
In an April op-ed published in the New York Daily News, former Republican presidential nominee Rick Santorum said, "It is actually not well known that the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 made it U.S. law to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that the waiver provision of the act only applied to moving the embassy to Jerusalem."
Romney — like most politicians who make the trek to Israel — is expected to face questions over whether he would endorse calls by some fellow Republicans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
View Jay Carney's remarks on the capital of Israel: