Hillary's Israel Position Splits with White House: She Backs Moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

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UTICA, N.Y. - First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton supports moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem - a stance that differs from President Clinton's and established U.S. policy.

One Jewish leader called Mrs. Clinton's declaration "political pandering," and the White House immediately distanced itself from her position.

While Mrs. Clinton was touting health care reform in upstate New York yesterday on her exploratory Senate campaign swing, her campaign released a July 2 letter she wrote to the Orthodox Union.

The letter to the Jewish group, first obtained by Reuters, said Mrs. Clinton considers Jerusalem "the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel."

She also promised that, if elected to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, she will "be an active, committed advocate for a strong and secure Israel."

Mrs. Clinton's campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said the first lady "believes the U.S. Embassy should be in Jerusalem, consistent with the security concerns of Israel."

The White House emphasized that Mrs. Clinton's comments do not reflect official Clinton administration policy.

"Clearly, the views expressed by the first lady are her personal ones and she has an obligation to share those with the people of New York," said National Security Council spokesman David Leavy. "In terms of the president's views or the administration's, ours haven't changed on Jerusalem.

"It's agreed by the parties that this will be an issue covered in the final status negotiations," Mr. Leavy added. "And we believe it should be not prejudged by any action by the United States or any other third party."

Mrs. Clinton's comments were greeted skeptically on Capitol Hill.

"It would be far better if Hillary Clinton would convince her husband, the president of the United States, to properly implement the law and proceed with moving our American Embassy to Jerusalem," said Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, noted that Mr. Clinton made the same pledge in the 1992 campaign but later broke his promise.

"As someone who has seen the Clintons make numerous promises to the Jewish community only to see it broken once in office, we have to take this bit of political pandering with the necessary degree of salt," Mr. …