WASHINGTON – The Democratic Party platform got a lot of attention in Charlotte
for what it didn’t include in its section on Israel, but the points it did
mention are straight out of the AIPAC playbook: robust security assistance,
increased defense cooperation, calls on Arab states to reach out to Israel and
support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
“Nobody can read the
Democratic platform on Israel and come away with a sense that it is not pro-
Israel,” said Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon official who helped draft the 2012
platform, as the controversy over the Israel language swirled in Charlotte,
“It is extraordinarily supportive of Israel.” But that
didn’t stop Republicans from attacking it for not sufficiently backing the
Jumping on the fact that the 2012 platform plank didn’t
include the 2008 platform’s support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as
well as other points related to Israel’s positions vis-à-vis the Palestinians in
the peace process, the Republican Jewish Coalition sent out a press release
bashing the change and calling for the language to be reinstated.
partisans up through the presidential candidate himself, Mitt Romney, piled on,
with Romney calling it a “shameful” omission.
But so did many Democratic
members of Congress.
Some of the harshest comments came from Pennsylvania
Sen. Bob Casey, who told The Jerusalem Post the move was “dead wrong” and that
“I reject it.”
All of which resulted in US President Barack Obama
personally intervening to have the language on Jerusalem – as well as a
reference to God – added into the platform during a hastily arranged amendment
process Wednesday night.
While it was done to shore up the party’s
pro-Israel credentials, the many “No’s” in the voice vote that was held to make
the amendment, and the booing that followed the declaration that the two-thirds
support threshold had been met, did the opposite.
Though the boos
apparently came from many sources – those displeased with the expediency of the
process, with the God reference and the fact the vote was held three times – at
least some of it was due to opposition to the Jerusalem language being
The episode ended up furthering the narrative of a split
among Democrats over support for Israel, and in turn made what Democrats
expected to be a week of positive messaging out of Charlotte into several days
of negative headlines.
The RJC is now trying to push the issue further
with a new ad titled “Rift” running in Jewish papers in key swing
If it’s any consolation to the Democrats, last week’s unforced
error is reminiscent of Romney’s overseas trip this summer. In that case, too,
the intention was to get a week of good press filled mostly with attractive
photos and fluffy stories. Instead, the headlines were dominated by Romney gaffes and controversies that hardly gave the campaign
the boost on the international stage that it was looking for.
campaign, it seems, has been operating at its best recently.
comparison Democrats are most eager to make, however, is with the Republican
The Democrats’ amended platform now includes the statement that
“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed
that Jerusalem is a matter for final-status negotiations. It should remain an
undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
The GOP platform in
contrast states only that “We envision two democratic states – Israel with
Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine – living in peace and security.” It does
not include the 2008 platform’s reference to an “undivided” Jerusalem, as the
Democrat one does, and there is also no longer a reference to moving the US
Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (something the Democrat platform does not
RJC executive director Matt Brooks dismissed the change as
“comparing apples to oranges,” since “the Republican Party unambiguously,
unhesitatingly affirms Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
the content, there was certainly a difference in terms of attention and reaction
to the two parties’ platforms, given that no open dispute erupted on the
Republican convention floor in Tampa, Florida.
As such, it’s difficult
for the Democrats to do too much damage control when video of delegates yelling
“no” to reinserting the Jerusalem language is circulating on YouTube – whatever
their source and the reason for the boos that followed its inclusion.
the other hand, the audience in the arena for Obama’s speech Thursday night did
offer a cheer when the president came to the line “Our commitment to Israel’s
security must not waver.”
Some wanted him to go further and explicitly
reference Jerusalem in the speech.
Andrea Saul, Romney’s spokeswoman,
issued a statement declaring, “Now is the time for President Obama to state in
unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s
Perhaps Obama felt that enough had already been said on
Jerusalem by then.