U.S. President Barack Obama offered heartfelt condolences at the funeral of his late friend, Shimon Peres, on Friday, traveling for 22 hours to spend just six on the ground in a show of support.
But whether he was on Israeli ground to pay respects to one of the founding fathers of the Jewish state is a question that now risks eclipsing his gesture, after the White House issued an embarrassing correction on Friday night indicating that Jerusalem is, in fact, disputed territory.
The transcript of Obama’s eulogy of Peres, who was buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, originally listed the ceremony was held in Jerusalem, Israel. Six hours later, the White House sent out a ‘corrected’ version of the transcript with Israel explicitly crossed out of the header.
“I could not be more honored to be in Jerusalem to say farewell to my friend Shimon Peres, who showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea,” Obama said at the funeral. “The last of the founding generation is now gone.”
While the Democratic Party Platform recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the State Department has long demurred from doing so– and does not refer to the city, unified since 1967, as Israeli territory.
“The administration’s policy towards Jerusalem follows that of previous US administrations– of both parties– since 1967,” a senior administration official said explaining the ‘correction’.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office weighed in immediately upon hearing of the correction. “Speaker Ryan was proud to visit Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, earlier this year,” his spokesperson, AshLee Strong said.
Israeli officials privately expressed frustration at the White House’s move, but declined to immediately comment for this report.
Israel has long maintained that Jerusalem is its “undivided and eternal capital,” and will remain so under any peace agreement resulting in the establishment of a Palestinian state.