CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – The Democratic National Convention platform, which was passed Tuesday night, speaks of US President Barack Obama’s “unshakable commitment
to Israel’s security” but lacks language declaring Jerusalem its capital, a
change from 2008.
Amid accusations from Republicans that Obama is “whitewashing” the issue, former congressman Robert Wexler was
scheduled Tuesday night to give likely the first-ever convention speech devoted
entirely to Israel at the DNC.
Wexler, a key drafter of the foreign
policy portion of the DNC platform, told The Jerusalem Post
the address is one
that will emphasize Obama’s “stellar record on Israel” amidst charges from
“political opponents who are distorting his record.”
But his comments
come against a fresh round of tensions between Israel and the US over Iran
policy, with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff,
saying on Sunday
that America doesn’t want to be “complicit” in an Israeli
military strike on Tehran.
In addition, questions about Obama’s
commitment to Israel continue to be raised in some quarters of the Jewish
community. While Democratic party leaders have downplayed any loss of Jewish
support over Israel policy, some critics see Wexler’s high-profile speaking slot
as a sign of concern in the campaign over how the president’s stance on Israel
The DNC platform speaks of security assistance provided by
Obama to Israel, as well as emphasizing that “the president has made clear that
there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met” and
that “President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to
But the 2012 platform did not include language from 2008 that
stated that, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” as well as
declaring that Palestinian refugees should settle in a future Palestinian state
rather than Israel and calling on Hamas to accept the Quartet conditions of
recognizing Israel, renouncing terrorism and respecting international
The Romney campaign slammed the Democratic party for
embracing Obama’s “painful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish
Coalition, also criticized the Democrats for taking out the 2008 language and
“whitewashing” the reference to Jerusalem.
In response, Wexler said “this
is completely absurd in terms of trying to fabricate some kind of stepping
He said that right now policy isn’t focused on the peace process.
Rather, “the focus is on security cooperation. The focus is Iran.”
said that while the US and Israel might have different “tactical considerations”
when it comes to dealing with Tehran, there was “no daylight” between them when
it came to the countries’ shared commitment to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear
The platform states that “the president is committed to using
all instruments of national power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear
“It is total cherry-picking of the language,” Wexler said of
the Republican attacks. He called the document as a whole “arguably the most
pro-Israel platform language that has ever been in a party platform.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also praised the platform as demonstrating that
“the Democratic party is now, has been, and will continue to be an unshakable
ally, friend and supporter of Israel.”
But he also made clear that not
everyone in the party agreed with the changes in the platform, and noted that
whenever he and other Democratic members of Congress traveled to Israel, they
have treated Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
Hoyer told the Post that
he didn’t know why the language on Jerusalem was dropped, but added, “I wouldn’t
have taken it out.”
A DNC spokeswoman told the Post that “ we focused the
platform on President Obama’s undeniable and unshakeable commitment to Israel’s
security,” and noted that “the Obama administration has followed the same policy
towards Jerusalem that previous US administrations of both parties have done
The DNC official added, “The status of Jerusalem is an issue
that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and
the Palestinians – which we also said in the 2008 platform.”
the day, a panel on the sidelines of the convention devoted to the Jewish vote
cited a J Street poll that found that most American Jews support the way Obama
is handling the Middle East and predicted that the issue wouldn’t turn voters
away from the president.
According to the poll, 67 percent of those
surveyed support the US playing a strong role in creating a two-state solution
even if it meant publicly stating its disagreement with both sides.
Gerstein, a pollster who works with J Street, one of the organizations hosting
Tuesday’s event, also said that Israel is an issue that ranks low in the voting
priority list even of Jewish voters.
He said his poll found that Israel
ranked eighth out of 13 given issues in terms of voters’ concerns, with the
economy and health care coming in a the top. Only 7% put Israel as one of their
top two voting issues.
“This might be the loudest 7% on the planet, but
it’s at the bottom of the list,” said Gerstein.
Jan Schakowsky, an
Illinois congresswoman who participated in the J Street event, asked, given the
poll numbers, “Why has the notion that it’s all about Israel been so strong and
But Brooks argued that the DNC wouldn’t have decided to feature
a speech devoted entirely to Israel during its condensed evening program if
the party wasn’t concerned about how voters view the issue. He was one of
several Jewish activists to not recall a politician ever before delivering a
speech devoted solely to Israel at a convention of either party.
say it is not important but everything they’re doing is designed to shore up and
spin the Jewish community,” Brooks contended.
Schakowsky told the Post
that Wexler’s speech was necessary “to put to rest the questions that are
raised” about Obama’s record on Israel.
“It is not going to be the main
focus” of the Democratic gathering, she said. “Maybe it will be 7% of the