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Did the White House Map for Obama's Middle East Trip Really Shrink Israel's Borders?


"Sure you could write this off as a graphic designer’s error, but it’s an error that hews closely to the geography of an anti-Israel policy."

President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. March 5, 2012. (Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Ahead of President Obama's first presidential visit to Israel this week, the White House released a rather dry YouTube video highlighting his itinerary for the trip.  It was posted on March 15, but a number of people have recently seized upon a little-observed aspect of the clip: the map of Israel.  As they note, the map appears to have been altered to shrink the Israeli borders.  We decided to take a closer look.

The Washington Free Beacon wrote Monday:

The map of Israel, displayed repeatedly during the video, shows the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, northern Israel, and areas surrounding what is currently the West Bank as non-Israeli territory. The Golan Heights is shown as part of Syria; Jerusalem is shown as part of the West Bank; and northern Israel is shown as part of Lebanon.

The itinerary on the White House website also implies that Jerusalem is neither Israel’s capital nor even part of Israel.

The president’s schedule lists two stops in “Tel Aviv, Israel” and one in “Amman, Jordan” but his activities in Israel’s capital city are identified as taking place only in “Jerusalem” — with no country name attached. This keeps with a reluctantly-acknowledged administration policy of denying that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital or even a part of Israel.  [Emphasis added]

The map (or dark blue outline) to the left is from the White House's YouTube video, and the one to the right has been superimposed onto the image by the Washington Free Beacon:

(Photo via the Washington Free Beacon)

The catch here is that the White House map omits any dots or stars indicating key cities; the land is simply shown as colored blocks.  Since Jerusalem is a border city, it's difficult to argue to the fraction of a millimeter, though the indentation into the West Bank may be infinitesimally smaller on the White House Map.

However, since the Golan heights is considered "occupied territory," it is understandable that it be delineated differently.  The official map from the CIA World Factbook does the same thing, explaining: "Territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on US Government maps."

But one border that has been undeniably altered is that with Lebanon.  While the rest of the borders curve to reflect Israel's boundaries, the northern border is depicted as a straight line, clearly "giving" Israeli territory to Lebanon.

Here's the official map from the CIA World Factbook, which, as you can see, looks a little different than the most recent version from the White House:

(Photo: CIA World Factbook)

So what does this all mean?  The map has undeniably been modified, though perhaps not as much as a number of sites and commenters suggest.

The issue is a sensitive one, though, since President Obama and the Democrat Party have often come under fire for being unclear on Jerusalem's status.  The president pledged when campaigning for the 2008 election that it ​was​ the capital of Israel and had to remain so, undivided.  Since being elected, however, he has been far less decisive.  Most notably, the Democrat platform omitted Jerusalem as the country's capital before the 2012 election, but was forced to reinstate it after a national outcry.

The modified map will likely be the most recent concern in a long line of policies and statements that seem to subtly thumb the nose at Israel.  If asked directly, though, the White House will no doubt claim that Israel has never had a better friend that it does in this administration, while downplaying the significance of a few millimeters on a map along a few borders.

"Sure you could write this off as a graphic designer’s error," Front Page Mag wrote, predicting that possibility, "but it’s an error that hews closely to the geography of an anti-Israel policy."



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