Carney and WH Web Site 'Follow Up' Won't Admit to What the Law Dictates: Jerusalem Is Israel's Capital

July 28th, 2012 2:59 PM

One of the most embarrassing yet telling exchanges (using the term loosely, as will be seen) in the history of presidential press secretaries occurred on Thursday. Connie Lawn, described here as longest-serving White House reporter, asked Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney what should have been a really easy question: "What city does this administration consider to be the capital of Israel -- Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?"

Carney wouldn't answer it, and accused Lawn and relentless national treasure Les Kinsolving of of asking about something they already knew. Carney's contemptible behavior has been virtually ignored in the establishment press. Here is the complete exchange as relayed at the White House's web site, complete with an asterisk, which I will explain (I have added names of the questioners where needed; a YouTube of part of what follows is here; bolds are mine):

(Connie Lawn) What city does this administration consider to be the capital of Israel -- Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?*

MR. CARNEY: I haven't had that question in a while. Our position has not changed, Connie.

Q (Ms. Lawn) What is the position? What's the capital?

MR. CARNEY: You know our position.

Q (Ms. Lawn) I don't.

Q (Les Kinsolving of No, no, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. That's why she asked.

MR. CARNEY: She does know --

Q (Ms. Lawn) I don't.

Q (Mr. Kinsolving) She does not know. She just said she doesn’t know. I don't know.

MR. CARNEY: We have long -- Les, I call on Christi. Go ahead.

Q Back on the question of gun violence. Why did the President wait? What's the reason for the venue and the timing of those remarks?

MR. CARNEY: The remarks last night? Well, it was a very appropriate venue -- it was the Urban League Conference. He talked about a number of issues, especially the economy, as well as the problem of violence in urban communities.

Q But those were his most extensive and impassioned remarks, and I just wondered if he's planning to do that in a more noticeable venue at a more noticeable time.

MR. CARNEY: You mean a speech in front of a vast audience with television cameras is not more noticeable?

Q Late at night, it was five days later --

MR. CARNEY: Well, we didn’t schedule -- we didn’t organize the conference. It was a very appropriate place to have that conversation.

Q (Mr. Kinsolving) Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

MR. CARNEY: You know the answer.


Q (Mr. Kinsolving) No, I don't know the answer. We don't know the answer. Could you just give us an answer? What do you recognize -- what does --

MR. CARNEY: Our position hasn’t changed, Lester.

That asterisk relates to an "explanation" at the top of the transcript at the White House web site which proves that the Obama administration as a whole also will not do what Carney refused to do -- name the capital of Israel -- and, further, that it has from all appearances adopted a disturbing stance on the matter of Jerusalem:

See below for a follow up to a question (marked with an asterisk) posed in the briefing.

*The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. 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.

So now the whole city, not just East Jerusalem, is fair game for negotiation. It's reasonable to ask if this assertion has been influenced by the administration's development of a "cozy relationship" with the Muslim Brotherhood.

As to the Israel's actual capital, I could be snarky and note that even a liberal columnist like Richard Cohen recognized 17 years ago that "Jerusalem, after all ... is the country's capital" (okay, I just did).

More to the point, as Rick Santorum noted during his presidential campaign, Congress passed a law in 1995 which, bravely assuming that laws mean anything any more, dictated what Carney's answer should have been:

... 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. A letter to President Bill Clinton — signed by 84 U.S. senators, including me — articulated this point.

We know the Obama administration is not complying with U.S. law.

Connie Lawn's question brought this noncompliance out into the open. We know what the answer should have been, and we now know that what should have been the answer isn't the answer -- and worse.

No wonder the rest of the establishment press, whose members at Carney press conference appear to have failed to express even the slightest bit of support for their two stonewalled colleagues, is doing everything it can to ignore what Carney said and didn't say, and the White House's cowardly attempt to "follow up."

Cross-posted at