Mitt Romney made headlines over the weekend, when he declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel during a visit to the Jewish state.
The GOP candidate spoke in contrast to the official US line, which maintains that Israel’s capital will be determined through negotiations with Palestine. Likewise, the US, as well as many other nations, keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv.
During his visit to the Holy City on Sunday, Romney stated publicly: “It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”
The comment was particularly poignant given rising controversy over news outlets and foreign governments’ refusal to name the city as Israel’s capital. The Prime Minister’s office recently started a Facebook campaign against the trend after the BBC failed to create a capital category on Israel’s Olympic profile page. And last week, the White House took additional flak when spokesman Jay Carney would not give a definitive answer on what city the US considers Israel’s capital.
In an interview with CNN, Romney addressed the embassy issue, noting that the US has continually promised to move its headquarters to Jerusalem, but has since failed to do so. Presidents dating back to the first George Bush have filed extensions each time the deadline to actually make the move arrives.
"A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital," he said. "I think it's long been the policy of our country to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital, Jerusalem. The decision to actually make the move is one, if I were president, I would want to take in consultation with the leadership of the (Israeli) government which exists at that time. So I would follow the same policy we have in the past."
On the Palestinian side, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters that Romney’s remarks were a hazard to the peace process. Palestine controls eastern Jerusalem and maintains the city as its own national capital.
"We condemn his statements. Those who speak about the two-state solution should know that there can be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem," Erekat said. "What this man is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred, and this is absolutely unacceptable. His statements are just rewarding the occupation and aggression."
During his 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama also made a public statement declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, though he has failed to endorse that stance during his presidency.
While in Jerusalem, Romney made a stop at the Wailing Wall, where he donned a yarmulke and left a written prayer. He also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Later, he sat down with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Romney and his wife arrived in Israel following a visit to London.