US presidential candidate Mitt Romney's statements calling Jerusalem
"the capital of Israel" are harmful to the peace process but they should not
be taken seriously as a reflection of US foreign policy, a political analyst
On Sunday, the Republican candidate made the remark before an Israeli audience in Jerusalem, during a trip to present himself as Israel's closest ally ahead of the November 6 election.
"This is not the first time a US presidential candidate used Jerusalem as a means to gain the support of the Jewish community in the US," analyst Hassan Barari said.
The US is a key player in the peace process, Barari said, and remaining a moderate mediator is important to win Arab trust.
He added that Romney's statement reflects his personal views and his ideological perception; however, if he became president he would reconsider his options so that they do not undermine the peace process as a whole.
Reuters on Sunday reported that the Palestinians were unhappy with the US candidate's statement.
"Palestinians accused US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday of undermining peace prospects by calling Jerusalem 'the capital of Israel', ignoring their own claims to the city and most world opinion," the agency said.
"We condemn his statements. Those who speak about the two-state solution should know that there can be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem," Reuters quoted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying on Monday.
"What this man is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred, and this is absolutely unacceptable," Erekat said. "His statements are just rewarding the occupation and aggression."
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital for their future state, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
A UN Security Council resolution condemns a 1980 Israeli law that declared Jerusalem the "complete and undivided" capital of the country as a violation of international law.
Most of the international community, including the US, does not formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital due to the ongoing conflict, insisting the issue can only be resolved through final status negotiations.
All foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv with consular representation in Jerusalem, according to Agence France-Presse.
In 1995, the US Congress passed the so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and stating that the US embassy should be moved there.
But an inbuilt waiver, which allowed the president to temporarily postpone the move on grounds of "national security" has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, from Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, meaning the law has never taken effect, according to AFP.
Almost four years ago, in August 2008 -- some three months before the US presidential election -- Obama, then a Democratic hopeful, made a similar statement about Jerusalem.
According to Reuters, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said Romney's statements were unhelpful, stood in the way of a peace settlement and "contradict the previous positions held by the American administration".
Barari underlined that Romney's chances are slim compared to his opponent, which is why he is using all possible ways to increase his popularity with US voters.
Palestine Liberation Organisation Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo said: "American policy makers must abandon hypocrisy and stop attempting to gain votes at the expense of the Palestinian people's rights", Reuters reported.
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