Hillary Clinton at Western Wall
Hillary Clinton at Western WallIsrael news photo: Flash 90

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backtracked on Friday from her previous pledge that “Israel’s right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned.”

Despite her three-year-old promise during her unsuccessful campaign to win the Democratic party nomination to run for president, she did not give a direct answer to a question Friday concerning her stand on the “undivided capital.”

Instead, she responded, "Jerusalem is a contested emotional issue for both Israelis and Palestinians. I want to support what is the outcome that the parties can agree to. And I think both parties know that they're going to have to engage on this issue and come to an understanding and a resolution so that Jerusalem becomes not a flashpoint but the symbol of peace and cooperation.”

She reiterated an oft-repeated phrase by American politicians that they are “committed to a safe and secure Israel.” Secretary Clinton added, "I think the political negotiations need to be matched with changes on the ground, confidence building measures and interactions between Israelis and Palestinians."

Her refusal to confirm her campaign pledge is not without precedent. U.S. President Barack Obama, during his campaign, also said he backed an “undivided Jerusalem” as Israel’s “eternal capital,” but following a furious Arab reaction, he tempered his comments 24 hours later, saying he meant that Israel and the Palestinian Authority must find a solution on their conflicting claims over the city.

He later blamed "poor phrasing" for the misunderstanding.

However, he has pushed forward his own solution, stating in his “reaching out to Muslims" speech in Cairo in June 2009 that the United Nations flag should fly over the Old City.

President Obama has leaned on Defense Minister Ehud Barak, chairman of the Labor party, to espouse his views within the Israeli government. Barak said last week he envisions a “special regime” with “agreed-upon arrangements” to administer the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David.