WASHINGTON – Just before the start of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the Obama administration has indicated that the issue of Jerusalem will be discussed at the end of the talks, and not at the beginning.
The US interest in Jerusalem stems from construction plans made public during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region, just a short time before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet with US President Barack Obama in the White House.
But meanwhile senior administration figures have come to an agreement with the Israeli government and, at least for now, Jerusalem is no longer in the headlines.
David Axelrod, top political advisor to the US president, said during a press conference with reporters from Jewish media channels that Obama agrees "Jerusalem as an issue can't be the first issue for negotiations."
Axelrod said the issue of Jerusalem should "probably be the last" issue. Thus he toed Israel's line, according to which this is a particularly sensitive issue, and should therefore be left until other core issues have been agreed on – first and foremost the issue of borders.
Axelrod's meeting with the reporters took place Tuesday, after Obama had hosted author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. Wiesel had published an open letter which appeared in major US newspapers, in which he called on the president to leave the issue of Jerusalem till last. On Tuesday, after leaving the White House, Wiesel said to reporters that he thought the tension between Israel and the US "is gone, which is good."
National Security Council Middle East Senior Director Dan Shapiro said during the annual Anti-Defamation League conference, that the Palestinians and other Arab leaders must prepare their citizens for peace by stopping incitement, educating towards coexistence and begin normalizing relations with Israel.
Shapiro added that the US administration will not hesitate to denounce incitement and anything that raises doubts about the Jewish people's historic connection to Jerusalem.