Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard broke a story yesterday:
At 3:22 p.m., I posted [a] photo of Vice President Joe Biden and Shimon Peres, with an accompanying caption that indicated it had been taken last year in Jerusalem, Israel. . .
The point of posting the photo was to show that, although the State Department refuses to say that Jerusalem is in Israel, even the White House website acknowledges this elementary truth (at least for Western Jerusalem, west of the 1949 armistice lines). But not any more. Within two hours of posting, the White House has apparently gone through its website, cleansing any reference to Jerusalem as being in Israel.
This report followed from the Washington Jewish Week:
After searching the White House’s online archives, it becomes clear that George W. Bush also found the issue problematic -- and chose to err on the side of caution.
Here’s just one archived photo:
“President George W. Bush walks with Israel’s President Shimon Peres, right, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, center, as they arrive Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, in Jerusalem, where the President laid a wreath in honor of Holocaust victims before departing Jerusalem for Galilee. White House photo by Eric Draper . . . .”
Another search of the Bush White House’s archives revealed a trend -- Jerusalem is never explicitly labeled as part of Israel.
While the overall policy might infuriate pro-Israel stalwarts, the record shows that the White House’s policy has been consistent under both Bush and Obama (and probably further back.)
Just to hammer home the point, take a look at this photo of Laura Bush touring the Western Wall tunnels, which, according to the former administration, is located simply “in Jerusalem.”
As a preliminary matter it doesn’t answer the question as to why the current White House tried to cover its tracks. But, more important, as one who has monitored with great interest the Obama administration’s departures from Bush’s Israel policy and have a pretty good grasp of how they differ, this didn’t sound right. Rather than rely on a search of the prior administration’s photos, I went to the best source, Elliot Abrams, the man directly responsible for U.S.-Israel relations in the Bush administration, to see if this was accurate.
He told me, “This is just wrong. A look at the Bush White House on-line Archives shows that Jerusalem was sometimes singled out and often was not. Dozens and dozens of times, statements were made that included Jerusalem in Israel. Just one example: when in early May 2008 the National Security Advisor briefed the press about the President’s forthcoming trip, he said it was to ‘Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia’ not ‘Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jerusalem.’ The record will show that the Bush Administration did not have a hard and fast rule that prohibited referring to Jerusalem that way at all times and in all statements and press releases.” (As an aside, the Bush administration never raised a a barrier to negotiations building in the Jewish state’s capital; that’ an invention of the current administration).
Even if one had doubts (which I do not) about whether Abrams’ view is accurate, you would think you’d try to check with someone in the Bush administration before making such an allegation. The reporter of the piece candidly acknowledges that he did not and did not attempt to before running the piece. I have no doubt that Washington Jewish Week, a reputable publication that has provided fair and accurate reporting in the past, will update the report and/or attempt to verify it with other knowledgeable sources.
But what about all of the lefty defense backs who perpetually run interference for the White House on Israel (and send off re-tweets or links to reports without checking themselves)? We can only hope they’d correct it too and acknowledge that comparing Obama to Bush on Israel is like comparing the Bad News Bears to the Yankees.