Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – The recent talk surrounding Israel policies in the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties signals “substantial tremors in the notion of bipartisan support for Israel, according to David Halperin, the executive director of the Israel Policy Forum.
“Bipartisanship on Israel should be a real thing and not just lip service,” Halperin told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
“This is dangerously being lost.
We are lacking reasonable discourse on these issues.”
In recent weeks the parties’ platforms have been scrutinized by Jewish organizations for language on Israel.
Some groups, including the New York-based Israel Policy Forum, expressed disappointment at the Republican Party’s platform last week for not mentioning the two-state solution.
They pointed out that the omission is not in accord with the declared policies of the United States and Israeli government as well as with the Republican Party’s previous position.
“Both the Republican and the Democratic parties have, until now, supported the official policy of the Israeli government that a two-state solution is the only viable path toward maintaining Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state,” the Israel Policy Forum wrote in a statement on Thursday. “The removal of language endorsing this policy communicates that the Republican Party no longer supports the adoption of a permanent status agreement establishing an independent and demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, also said he hopes the delegates at the Republican National Convention will reconsider “this pillar of US policy toward Israel in the final platform.
“It’s unfortunate because president George W. Bush was the president who really famously articulated the idea of two states living side by side in peace and security, which is the kind of baseline goal of US policy ever since,” Halperin said.
He added that while the value of the platforms is debatable, they are important in setting a direction for the parties.
“It sends a message as to the general policies and views of the parties,” he told the Post.
“I think that what is important and useful for those who are concerned about the future of the US-Israel relationship, is some form of consistency and maintaining the notion that the US-Israel relationship will continue to be strong, based on shared values and rooted in bipartisanship.”
The shift in language on the Republican side, he said, challenges this consistency.
“The politicization of Israel generally speaking and now specifically the pursuit of peace is a kind of continuation of the polarization we’ve seen since the Iran deal,” Halperin said. “I think that overcoming this is becoming more and more difficult.”
Last month, Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed to change Israel language in his party’s platform and include references to the state’s “occupation” of or “settlement activity” in the West Bank.
The Democratic platform committee voted down the language, but a compromise was reached: Hillary Clinton’s team agreed to include language recognizing Palestinian aspirations for “independence, sovereignty, and dignity” – a first for the platform, hailed by the Sanders camp as a victory.
According the Halperin, Sanders’s push was facilitated by the divide between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama over last year’s Iran nuclear deal and the fact that Netanyahu seemed to align with Republicans when he came to speak to Congress against the agreement in March 2015.
“As long as the Israeli prime minister is viewed by liberal Democrats as the Republican prime minister from Israel, I think it will be politically advantageous for those liberal Democrats to appear to be challenging him,” Halperin told the Post.
Platforms are meant to be inspirational, nonbinding policy declarations reflecting the will of the party at a given moment in time. But they are also practical documents – messages to voters in an election year.
US Jewish groups have overall applauded both parties’ condemnations of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement and their expression of unwavering support for Israel.Michael Wilner contributed to this report.