WASHINGTON (JTA) — A top adviser to President Obama said talks on Jerusalem should be left for last.
"The president agrees that Jerusalem as an issue can’t be the first issue for negotiations," David Axelrod told a small group of journalists working for Jewish media.
Jerusalem should "probably be the last" issue negotiated, Axelrod said Tuesday, echoing the position of Israel’s government, which is that the issue is too sensitive to discuss before other issues, including borders, are settled.
Axelrod spoke after President Obama hosted Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust memoirist, for lunch. Wiesel had published an advertisement in The New York Times obliquely criticizing the Obama administration for pressuring Israel to stop building in eastern Jerusalem; Axelrod said Obama’s lunch invitation to Wiesel predated the ad.
Disagreements over Jerusalem in March had precipitated two months of U.S.-Israel tensions, which Wiesel declared were now over.
"The tension I think is gone, which is good," he said after the lunch.
Wiesel suggested that it was wrong to press either the Israelis or the Palestinians on their "sovereign decisions."
"Each must understand that there is no absolute justice in the world, there is no absolute peace in the world," he said of the Israelis and the Palestinians. "One side must understand the other’s need for reassurance, for respect and sovereignty in its decisions and decision making."